Ready for the next attack?

The University of Almeria collaborates with police officers from all over Europe in the fight against cybercrime and has just started a project in Belgium against malicious programs. In this fight, it tries to stop the continuous attacks on companies, institutions and also citizens. The Internet security is essential for the development of interconnected society.

In Spain, practically all boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 15 access the Internet, and at 13, nine out of ten have their own mobile with completely free access to the Internetaccording to the report The use of technologies by minors in Spain, published by the National Observatory of Technology and Society. It is a practice that is understood as normal in this time of hyperconnection, but is it safe?

Apart from the debate on whether the use of technology for leisure or the consumption-generation of content in the various social networks at these ages is appropriate, the problem of Internet security. The vast majority of fathers and mothers are unaware of the dangers that the Internet entails if it is not used properly and, by providing them with a mobile phone, tablet or computer, they forget that they should also be provided with training so that they can enjoy technology does not lead to great disappointments.

The Internet is a jungle, in which the attack can come from the least expected place, and minors are not prepared to implement the necessary protection mechanisms. But the biggest problem is that adults don’t either.

What are the dangers associated with Internet security

When browsing the Internet, most people carry out practices that compromise their security, which can lead them to be victims of money or identity theft or, in much more extreme cases, watching a criminal network turn your computer into a distribution hub for child pornographya case that occurs on many more occasions than is believed.

Unsafe Internet use is as common as it is seriousbut even worse is that companies and public entities do not have the necessary measures to protect their systems from the thousands of attacks that occur daily.

The researcher at the Department of Computing at the University of Almería, José Antonio Álvarez Bermejo, knows very well the dangers of surfing the Internet and regrets that Spanish companies and institutions have taken too long to realize that the threats are there and are exposed to them. they. He assures that “six months or a year ago it was not in the DNA of organizations to protect themselves.”

How to combat attacks on the Internet

This researcher from the University of Almería has become a regular collaborator with the security forces of various European countries, whom he advises and trains on cybersecurity, and even participates in some operations to ‘hunt’ cybercriminals.

This experience has led him to collaborate with the Federal Judicial Police of Belgium in a project that has just started, for the creation of an advanced database of malicious programs (malware in English), with details that commercial databases do not haveand that will serve to defend against computer attacks.

This project is based on the evidence that attackers use previously created malicious programs, to which they only modify a series of parameters. Somehow, this practice facilitates the defense work, because the attacking program will have previously known behavior.

“A malicious program enters your machine and tries to persist. But if you have identified it and know how it works, you also know the steps you must take to eliminate it,” says this researcher from the University of Almería.

Has Internet security become a state problem?

Internet security has become a state problemsays Álvarez Bermejo. Countries are “certain that they are going to be attacked, what happens is that they don’t know where they are going to try to enter.” This has meant that not only the police, but also the armies, including the Spanish, have specialized units in cyberspace.

Because the threat is very real and also very serious. For example, a terrorist group would no longer have to put a bomb on a plane to bring it down, it would be enough for them to intercept the communications of an airport control tower and send wrong information to the plane about its position, which could cause it to crash. . And that is only a possibility, but what is currently taking place, affirms Álvarez Bermejo, are supply chain attacks, which are causing ships to be lost in the middle of the oceansomething that is achieved by modifying the information that GPS systems send to ships.

“The biggest problem now is that we are all at the same level, to the point that a citizen can attack a state. And to attack a country, you only need a keyboard, a mouse and you can be anywhere in the world”, he affirms.

In which aspects of cybersecurity are police officers trained?

This cybersecurity specialist from the University of Almería participates in the Training of Police and Civil Guard specialists, as well as with other European police forces. The training offered is aimed at various units. For those who go to the scene of the crime and are in charge of carrying out searches in homes or companies, it teaches them not to break the chain of custody of computer evidence, that is, if a criminal’s computer is intervened, they know how to act. “Before turning it off, all the information in the RAM must be analyzed and it must be done in a certain way so that nothing is lost and the tests are not invalidated”.

In the same way, it also works with specialized units in the analysis of computer evidence that, although they have very powerful tools provided by Europol, they need very specialized advice like the one he offers.

All these advisory and training jobs are linked to other collaborations in specific operations, many of them fight against child pornography, to capture members of criminal networks.

José Antonio Álvarez Bermejo, Internet security specialist from the University of Almería.

How are computer attacks on companies and institutions

Virtually every Internet user knows someone who has been the victim of a computer attack, however, there is no widespread culture on how they are produced. Attacking a system is complicated, due to the protection measures deployed. For this reason, the strategy used by cybercriminals is not so much the direct confrontation against these barriers, but rather the development of strategies to circumvent them and enter the computers that they want to violate.

what is done is “previously establish a communication between attacker and attacked”. And this is achieved, for example, through an email, which contains an attachment in a format that at first does not generate any suspicion, such as a PDF, to which a malicious code has been introduced. When this file is opened, the attacking program is executed and that is when the system doors are opened to cybercriminals..

How to defend against a cyber attack

To defend yourself against a possible attack, a few simple practices are enough, such as starting to use more secure browsers, such as Brave; if a digital certificate is used, use encryption programs such as Kleopatra; analyze suspicious files on the Virustotal website; hire a good antivirus; and, above all, common sense so as not to fall into the traps that come through all the devices we use on a daily basis.

The Internet is a jungle, it is “like the most dangerous neighborhood in the city where you would never let your children play.” Hence the importance of being aware of the risks that are run and of acting in a safe way, so as not to be a victim of any of these attacks.

And “you can already have the best firewall or the best security systems, which are worthless, because they protect you from incoming connections, but not from outgoing onesbecause what has occurred is that a third party has accessed the entity and a command and conquer exchange is established, that is, I send orders and conquer you”.

José Antonio Álvarez Bermejo explains that very advanced knowledge is not required to build a file with malicious code, in fact, there are totally accessible programs that allow it. As well as, that the attackers go “with a shot”, since before initiating their action they make sure they know all the details of the system they want to access, for which they use applications available on the Internet.

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