bama reported on trends in malver-tising, a relatively new kind of attack
where criminals inject malware or
scareware into online advertisements.
These malvertisements, for example,
might be Flash files that make use
of exploits, or use scare tactics that
“warn” users about viruses that are on
their computer and urge people to click
a link to install fake antivirus software.
There are three points I want to discuss. First, these advertising networks
have a very wide reach on the Internet.
Even the New York Times’ Web site
was hit with one of these fake advertisements. As such, these malvertisements represent a very serious threat
to the operation of the Internet.
Second, as a user, you could be doing everything right and still be infected. You might keep your antivirus
software up to date, always install the
latest patches, avoid sketchy programs
and Web sites, and not fall for any
phish, but still end up with malware.
Third, using fake virus scans has
been a growing tactic to convince
people to install malware onto their
computers. This kind of malware is
growing in sophistication, and is also
causing damage to legitimate antivirus vendors by reducing people’s trust.
Admittedly, it’s a good strategy for the
bad guys to take.
I had the misfortune of facing some
of this fake antivirus software recently. My wife fell for one of these scams
and asked me to fix her computer. The
malware actually blocked standard
antivirus software from running, so
I tried to remove the software manually. However, as I did this, I saw the
malware start to reinstall itself from
a remote location. I tried again after
turning off all networking, and deleted
all the malware files. However, I either
missed something in the registry or a
browser helper object as it started reinstalling itself again after rebooting.
After wasting an hour of time, we decided it would be easier and safer to
just wipe the machine and start over.
If we take a step back, we can view
malvertisements as just another
type of attack where criminals try to
make use of our greater connectivity.
It’s useful to revisit the three basic
strategies for usable privacy and se-
curity: 1) make it invisible; 2) provide
better user interfaces; and 3) edu-
cate users. In the short term, we can
educate people about fake antivirus
programs. However, in the long term,
advertising networks will need far
better tools for detecting and filter-
ing these kinds of malware so users
don’t see them at all.
mark Guzdial “The Complicated issues of Computing Education in Qatar” http://cacm.acm.org/ blogs/blog-cacm/91580
At the beginning of May, the ACM Education Board visited Qatar University.
The goal was to meet with stakeholders
and plan for developing computing education in the Middle East and India.
John Impagliazzo, professor at Qatar
University (QU), longtime Education
Board member, and emeritus professor from Hofstra University, organized
the meeting. We went with Dame Wendy Hall, ACM President [at the time],
and John White, ACM CEO and executive director. The trip was amazing—
enlightening and confounding.
Qatar University has a significant
gender imbalance in its computer science program, but it’s opposite of the
U.S. and much of the Western world.
Seventy percent of QU’s CS students are
female. The QU professors explained
that being a computer scientist isn’t a
well-respected job in Qatar. The men go
for engineering-labeled degrees, which
lead to higher-paying jobs. The QU faculty explained that the computing jobs
in Doha—the capital of Qatar, home of
QU, and of the majority of Qatar’s population—are mostly about adapting and
customizing applications from elsewhere to make them fit in Qatar and the
Middle Eastern culture.
The QU CS faculty are planning to
add more information systems and in-
formation technology into their curric-
ulum to better prepare their students
for the available jobs. Then we got to
meet the female CS students at QU.
These women totally embrace “geeki-
ness.” They are pushing their faculty to
let them build applications sooner in
the curriculum. QU offers no program-
ming competitions. These women are
looking up international programming
competition problems to push them-
selves! I was amazed at how eager these
women are, how much they want to pro-
gram “robots, animation, mobiles—
anything! We want to be challenged!”
On the next day, we visited Educa-
tion City, home to the satellite cam-
puses of six American universities.
Built by the Qatar Foundation, the
goal is to change Qatari culture into a
knowledge-based society where people
build their own intellectual property
and not just adapt Western ones. Qatar
has oil wealth now, but knows it won’t
last forever. They’re investing now for a
future society with a culture focused on
knowledge creation and innovation.
Greg Linden is the founder of geeky Ventures. Jason
hong is an associate professor of computer science at
Carnegie mellon University. Mark Guzdial is a professor at
the georgia institute of technology.