UTSA alumnus and Executive Chairman of Quarri Technologies, Inc., Bill Morrow, donated $10,000 and 100,000 shares of company stock to UTSA’s Information Assurance and Security program. Speaking at the donation ceremony was Morrow; the program’s director, Dr. Frederick Chang, who also accepted the gift; and U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith R-Texas, who spoke on the importance of investing in cyber security research for national defense purposes.
Quarri Technologies is an internet security firm that focuses on securing internet browsers, which can be easily compromised both from outside and inside of a computer network.
Morrow is a well-known Texas entrepreneur and has founded numerous technology start-up companies, including the CSIdentity Corporation, and has served as the Board Director and CEO of Grande Communications. As an active UTSA alum, Morrow sits on the UTSA Development Board and was awarded the UTSA Alumni Association Alumnus of the Year award in 2002. Morrow urged future UTSA alumni to follow his example.
“I do offer a challenge to all young entrepreneurs that are coming out of UTSA to not wait until the future to give back to their university, but to give stock in their early start-ups, so that, as those start-ups mature, they merge, they acquire, or they go public, the University of Texas at San Antonio gets a portfolio of stocks that becomes valuable and gives back time and time again,” Morrow said.
US Congressman Smith of the 21st District of Texas heads the House Judiciary Committee and is the leader in writing cyber security legislation, including the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act. Smith spoke on the importance of gifts like Morrow’s because they help train and educate future leaders, while keeping America safe from cyber threats.
“The idea and the goal of this gift today is to make sure that Quarri Technologies will be able to hire the best and brightest UTSA cyber security graduates in the future. And I hope that, of course, will make the country even more successful as well,” Smith said.
“In Washington DC, there is a bipartisan recognition that our nation’s cyber security efforts are, in fact, inadequate. In testimony before the science and technology committee, a witness once said, ‘There are two types of people in the world; people that can tell you that they have been hacked, and people who don’t realize they have been hacked,'” said Smith.
“You read horror stories everyday. ‘Cyber crimes risk our personal finances, proprietary business information and national security knowhow.’ Concerns have been raised that hackers seek to physically damage the nation’s air traffic control systems, DoD and NASA satellites, and the electrical grid. Hackers from a variety of countries, and especially China and Russia, as well as those working inside and outside the US cause a great deal of damage to our nation’s economy and national security. It will take industry, government, and universities working together to stop the bad actors out there and bring them to justice.”
Smith is the primary sponsor and author of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is designed to curb the pirating of copyrighted material over the internet. The bill has received wide opposition from tech leaders such as Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia because some of the wording in the bill could lead to internet censorship. The Obama administration also officially opposed the bill in a statement on Jan. 14, 2012 stating, “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.” The bill has already had several measures removed to appease opposition such as domain name system (DNS) filtering. Smith declined to comment on the issue.
During Chang’s address, he made five cyber security predictions for 2012.
1. Mobile malicious software (mobile malware) in smart phones will increase significantly in 2012.
2. There will be an increase in search engine optimization poisoning. This type of attack artificially alters search engine results by putting malicious yet seemingly innocent search results higher up in the list. The attacks would focus on high profile event searches such as elections.
3. Social media attacks that would spoof messages and emails from friends on social media networks, but, in reality, would-be hackers trying to steal information.
4. Big news from UTSA cyber security research in 2012.
5. More job opportunities for students in the information assurance and security program
Chang also said, “There were more than 1000 instances of android malicious software cases in 2011, so there is little doubt that the trend for attacks on your smart phones will go up in 2012. That’s a pretty easy prediction to make.”
Mobile malware is designed to be hidden inside legitimate looking mobile apps or advertisements (malvertisements) and, once downloaded by the user, take control of the phone, steal personal information, and steal money by secretly charging premium-rates for text messaging services.
There are many ways in which the authors of malicious code can use the information for their advantage.
“Malware authors have a wide variety of motives behind the malicious applications they create,” said mobile security researcher Cory Adams. “For example, an app found in the Android Market called Dogowar, a dog fighting game, would covertly text people in the device’s contact list of those who downloaded it a message saying, ‘I take pleasure in hurting small animals, just thought you should know that.’ On the other end of the spectrum is crimeware, which is rapidly evolving. Crimeware authors have one motive in mind: stealing sensitive data for financial gain. An example of this type of malware is Zitmo, a phone malware program that originated from a family of PC malware called Zeus. This dangerous piece of malware targets bank account login information.”
Although the mobile application market is dangerous if users do not know how to protect themselves, there are several measures they can take to help avoid attackers according to Adams:
– Download applications only from legitimate Markets…e.g. Google, Amazon, (Apple Market)
– Pay attention to the permissions requested by an application. For example, a game app should not need permissions to access your SMS messages. This is important because some platforms such as Android depend on these permissions for security.
– Download an antivirus app. There are several free anti-virus applications available that offer security features in addition to antivirus scans. These apps also offer remote wiping of data and device locating services in case you misplace your phone or it is stolen. S
martphone users store sensitive data on their devices that would be very valuable to an attacker, such as, email, social media, SMS messages, browser history, passwords, etc.