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Leicester College Blog

The WHAT, HOW, WHO and WHY of computer malware

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With so much of today’s modern life such as shopping, learning, work and banking, all focused around online technology, cybersecurity and eliminating the threat of online fraud are paramount. As such, they are key areas of interest for Leicester College’s Level 3 Computing students.

The students on the Computing course were recently treated to a talk on computer malware from an industry expert – David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky, a global provider of security and threat management solutions.

David has worked in the anti-malware industry since 1990 and in his current role, regularly delivers presentations on malware and other IT security threats, highlighting what organisations and consumers can do to stay safe online.

David’s presentation outlined the types of attack we see [WHAT], the methods used to spread malware [HOW] who’s behind them [WHO] and what they want [WHY]. The presentation also offered some recommendations for staying safe online.

Looking at the threat landscape

David explains: “The Internet has gradually filtered into nearly every aspect of our lives. Many of us routinely bank, shop and socialise online and the Internet is now the life-blood of commercial and non-commercial organisations alike. This offers plenty of scope for cyber-attackers. The threat includes the random, speculative attacks that dominate the threat landscape – designed to steal data from anyone unlucky enough to get infected, as well as the growing number of targeted attacks on organisations.

“Such attacks can be highly complex and may make use of very sophisticated techniques to infiltrate an organisation and steal sensitive data. Typically, attacks start by ‘hacking the human’, i.e. by tricking people into disclosing information that can be used to gain access to corporate resources.

“The aim of my talk to the College’s students was to take a broad brush look at the threat landscape and how we investigate sophisticated attack campaigns using malware, ransomware, stalkerware or trojans, for example.”

Students protecting themselves from malware

“We looked at the main types of malware that you may come across, the volume of attacks, how it is spread and how you trick people into giving up personal information for sophisticated or opportunistic ends.

“We talked through some basic tips about how the students can protect themselves personally right now and what should organisations be thinking about. There were a broad range of follow-up questions including how to get into cybersecurity as a career.”

Ensuring safety for remote workers

“One of the main impacts that Covid has had is the push for people to work remotely and online, making them inherently less secure and perfect material for phishers.

“Whatever happens in the short-to-medium term, on an ongoing basis, remote working will continue to be part of the mix for students and workers alike. This will impact security and we need to find ways of making everyone safe.”

A valuable experience for students and lecturers

Chris Seaton, Technical Learning Coordinator at Leicester College added: “I attended the CompTIA EMEA conference last September and David was one of the speakers on the day. I made contact with David after his talk as he was very inspiring, had a wealth of knowledge and clearly very passionate about his career. He kindly offered to do this and delivered a very informative talk and presentation via Microsoft Teams.

“The talk was very beneficial to our students as they study and have assignments based on computer security and since the pandemic, the need for cyber security awareness is certainly on the rise. The Computing lecturers and students really enjoyed David’s talk and presentation that made us all more aware of the risks.

“The feedback from the students was fantastic. They found that David’s talk inspired them and that the content of the presentation will help them with their studies. They said having an industry expert talk to them was very valuable as they were hearing directly from a security professional that is working on current and past cyber security threats which made them very engaged. The students also asked if David would be able to speak again to upcoming cohorts of students as they would benefit from this.”

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