Professor, Student Invited to Portugal Conference

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Fairmont State University professor and student have been invited to present a paper based on their research at the Innovations and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE) conference in Lisbon, Portual, on June 27-29. Only 34 percent of the papers submitted (68 out of 200) were accepted.

Don Tobin, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, and Michael Ware, a computer science/mathematics major at FSU, have been invited to attend the conference. Their paper titled, "Using a Windows Attack intRusion Emulator (AWARE) to Teach Computer Security Awareness," describes AWARE, an emulator they designed to teach Windows XP users how to use system-supplied tools to detect potential attacks on their system resources. The system features built-in tutorials to help educate the user during the simulated security attacks.

"This tool is meant to be an attack simulator that recreates the Windows environment, injects attack patterns into it, and then allows the user/learner to try to find and remove all traces of the attack," Tobin said. "When the user is finished with the simulation, the evaluator part of the program lets the user know how well he or she did and what was missed. Ideally, we can teach anyone how to defend their own computers, no matter what their level of knowledge is."

According to Symantec, the number of Windows viruses and worms had risen 400 percent in the first half of 2004 compared with the same period in 2003. The threat to computer security is increasing and the primary defense against attacks on computing systems is the people who use them. However, many users do not seem to be aware of the security risks involved with being online. According to a recent study by the National Cyber Security Alliance and America Online, 77 percent of respondents believed they were safe from online threats, even though two-thirds lacked current anti-virus software and did not use a firewall. Additionally, when technicians went to visit each respondent to examine their personal computers, they found 80 percent of them infected with spyware and 20 percent infected with at least one virus.

"We developed AWARE to help battle this misperception by computer users that they are safe," Ware said. "Knowledge is the best defense. AWARE is constantly undergoing new development to keep pace with training needs and new attacks."

Tobin is responsible for the coordination of the computer security curriculum at FSU and teaches computing classes primarily in the areas of computer security, database systems, operating systems, programming and software engineering. His research interests are in the areas of intrusion detection, knowledge representation and the education of users in relevant computer security issues. He is a retired U.S. Air Force officer with varied experience in testing and deploying computer communications and space and satellite control systems.

Ware is a native of Martinsburg, W.Va., and a 2002 graduate of Martinsburg High School. He is a PROMISE Scholar and received the Eleanor M. Ford Outstanding Junior Scholarship for the College of Science and Technology. In the past year, he was a critical member of FSU's computer security research team analyzing malicious programs and viruses, studying intrusion detection techniques and conducting investigations into steganography techniques to hide data. Ware was selected to participate in the highly competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of South Carolina this summer. As one of only eight students selected for this research opportunity, Ware will be investigating research issues in secure and reliable software.

For more information on computer science and computer security programs offered at FSU, click on the Academics link on our home page.