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Vulnerabilities / Threats

Worldwide Malware Study Set for Launch

Three-year study to be funded by European Union, corporations

LAS VEGAS -- Black Hat USA -- A group of researchers has been given a $7.1 million grant by the European Union and corporate sponsors to correlate malware data and find out more about its sources around the globe.

The three-year project, called Worldwide Observatory of Malicious Behavior and Attack Tools (WOMBAT), will begin in January, the project's leader announced here yesterday.

In a Black Hat presentation, Stefano Zanero, a researcher at the Italian university Politecno de Milano and founder/CTO of Secure Network, said the project's funding was approved "three or four days ago. I wasn't even sure that I was going to be able to talk about it here."

The goal of the project is to correlate malware data from the many different researchers who collect it, and to try to spot trends that might indicate where it comes from and how it proliferates.

"There are many different groups and projects that track malware, and they can tell us a lot about the malware itself," Zanero says. "But they all have flaws, and they don't tell us very much about the people who create the malware. The goal of WOMBAT is to find out the root causes of the observed attacks, and to use the data we've correlated to help predict upcoming threats."

The correlation planned by WOMBAT is very different from the event correlation done by security information management systems or intrusion detection systems, Zanero says: "Those systems are looking at events in an enterprise. What we want to do is see if the sequences of attacks that occur around the world are correlated."

WOMBAT hopes to solve some of the unanswered questions around Internet security, Zanero says. "Why hasn't the industry seen a major worm attack since 2004? Why has no worm ever targeted the Internet's router infrastucture? Why isn't there more evidence of cyberterrorism? We don't have enough data."

The WOMBAT project has already been reviewed by a number of malware research and security groups -- including the Internet Motion Sensor, Clearstream, and Hewlett-Packard's Trusted Systems Lab -- and has garnered their support, Zanero says. The project also has the financial support of France Telecom, Hispasec, and "a major security provider" which has not yet been disclosed, he says.

The WOMBAT project will begin with workshops at the beginning of 2008, and it will have developed sensors for tracking and correlating malware data by 2009, Zanero states. Analysis of the project's data will be completed in 2010.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE)
  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)
  • Secure Network Technologies Inc.

    Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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