Phish and silicon chips

If you think 'phishing' involves a rod and reel, or that a 'spoof' is a lampooning movie genre, then you are at risk of falling victim to the dark work of cyber-criminals. A new research laboratory at Federation University Australia aims to shift the power, enabling FedUni researchers to analyse and profile the realms of e-crime.

In an effort to stem the growing tide of e-commerce fraud and online identity theft, Federation University Australia's "Internet Commerce Security Laboratory' (ICSL) has been developed in collaboration with the Westpac Banking Corporation, IBM Australia and the Victorian State Government. All four partners have undertaken a significant financial commitment exceeding $3.8 million to fund the Laboratory's first five years.

The incidence of web users unwittingly sharing private information with defrauders is on the rise. Varying sources estimate the annual cost world-wide in terms of billions of dollars, while wider implications are reduced consumer confidence and the personal impact of identity theft upon individuals. Solitary, square-eyed, 'hackers' are no longer the prime suspects. Criminal organisations account for the majority of scams today, including 'phishing' (spam emails that trick people into disclosing personal data), 'spoofing' (hoax websites that 'shadow' legitimate business websites), and the distribution of 'malware' (malicious software such as viruses and Trojan horses) that can silently steal identifying information.

The ICSL was launched late last year by the Minister for Information and Communication Technology, the Honourable Theo Theophanous MP. "The University's strengths in information security and data mining, together with the finance sector's recognition that this is a growing field of concern, have spear-headed the movement towards the ICSL" says ICSL Director, Professor John Yearwood.

Commercially relevant issues will be identified and channelled to the ICSL via the Westpac Banking Corporation. Discoveries within the Laboratory will inform banks and crime authorities who may then provide both technical and social solutions to the finance sector. "This Laboratory will provide a pipeline of real problems for ICSL researchers and industry practitioners to find solutions to', explains John "with substantial benefits for financial institutions. The value it provides to Westpac and other member banks will allow the ICSL to become commercially sustainable in the long term". The establishment of the ICSL further cements Ballarat's position as an ICT hub, and will provide a stream of industry-ready and doctoral graduates to the internet security sector, ready for the challenge of unmasking e-villains and helping the good guys stay one step ahead.