by Sotiris Ioannidis, Evangelos Markatos and Christopher Kruegel
Computer systems, networks and Internet users are under constant threat from cyber attacks. FORWARD is an initiative by the European Commission to promote collaboration and partnership between academia and industry in their common goal of protecting Information and Communication Technology infrastructures.
The past few years have been marked by an ever-increasing number of cyber attacks. Motivated by fun, fame and peer recognition, early attackers, more widely known as 'hackers', pioneered the methods used to penetrate computers, compromise accounts and invade our personal lives. Even though these early hackers usually meant no harm, their methods and techniques perfected the necessary technology required to compromise remote computers. In turn, this paved the way for professional criminals motivated by profit to start using compromised computers for a wide variety of illegal activities, such as trading of credit card numbers, online renting of compromised computers, online ordering and delivering of denial-of-service attacks, and sending spam email messages. To reduce the effects of these cyber attacks, security researchers are engaged in an arms race against the ever-increasing sophistication of cyber attackers, by creating systems that detect, and whenever possible mitigate, the effects of these attacks.
To stay ahead in this arms race, FORWARD brings together European researchers in network and information systems security to identify (i) the most probable security threats in the near future, and (ii) those research areas that must be pursued to address and mitigate these emerging threats. By mobilizing a critical mass of researchers in Europe and by complementing them with a select team of researchers from Asia and America, FORWARD is working towards establishing a research agenda for cyber security in Europe and identifying possible new areas and threats that must be addressed. FORWARD researchers have focused their activities on three critical domains:
- Malware and Fraud: malware is perhaps the one arena in which attackers have clearly demonstrated an increased sophistication. In its race to evade antivirus signatures and systems and stay below the detection 'radar', malware has evolved to be agile, stealthy and highly sophisticated.
- Smart Environments: the increasing miniaturization of computing systems is driving the penetration of intelligent appliances in every human activity. As computing and communicating devices become increasingly widespread, so does the potential of attackers to disrupt our daily lives in a wide variety of ways.
- Critical Systems: Our daily functions, if not our lives, depend on a wide variety of traditional and emerging infrastructures, such as the power grid and communications networks. As it becomes more common to connect critical infrastructures to the Internet using off-the-shelf technologies, the vulnerability of these utilities increases to breaches and attacks from the outside world.
By mobilizing cyber security researchers in Europe and by consolidating their efforts along those major research axes, FORWARD will identify those research directions that will help lead to a safer and more secure cyberspace for all European citizens.
For more information about the activities of FORWARD or if you are interested in participating, please contact Christopher Kruegel or visit our Web site.
Vienna University of Technology, Austria
Tel: +30 2810391945