Keene State duo recognized for botnet research
KEENE — A Keene State College professor and former student have been recognized by the IEEE Computer Society for their research on significant Internet security threats, called botnets.
Keene State College Assistant Professor of Computer Science Dr. Wei Lu and 2013 graduate Dan Garant started the research project in 2012 as a class project.
Garant initiated the project with Lu, but it really grew out of Lu’s hands-on teaching style, Garant said.
Lu told the class about several topics he had worked on previously and then encouraged students to reach out to him if they had an interest in pursuing any as a student project, Garant said.
“Wei’s really good about this because he understands what it takes to get students interested in terms of what its takes to get students to do advanced work,” he said.
Botnets pose some of the most serious threats to Internet networks today, Lu said.
Botnets are computers that are run by BotMasters — also known as hackers — to spread malicious applications that take over networks through spam email or fake websites.
“If you are not a computer expert and your computer is taken over by hackers, you could have no idea that is totally possible,” Lu said. “It’s not a real computer, it’s a zombie computer or bot.”
Hackers use tens of thousands of botnets to take down large networks or breach a network’s security, he said.
Lu and Garant use a web application called Weasel to simulate botnet behaviors in order to learn how hackers infect networks.
The research project is an international collaborative effort that began at University of New Brunswick, University of Victoria, and the Technological Crime Unit, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and is now being researched at Keene State College.
Lu completed his doctorate at the University of Victoria in Canada where he originally began his research with this type of program.
After graduation he moved to Germany where he worked for the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. In 2007, he returned to Canada and joined the University of New Brunswick where he received his Professional Engineer certificate and Diploma in Undergraduate Teaching. He then worked for a start-up company that was bought by IBM and worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in efforts to stop hackers. In 2010, Lu started research at Keene State.
Garant is currently earning his doctorate in computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Lu and Garant presented their research in 2013 at the 27th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Information Networking and Applications, in Barcelona, Spain.
“I’m very happy that our work can be promoted to the public,” Lu said. “The botnet is actually considered the largest threat to the whole Internet.”
Garant said the success of the project and working with Lu led to his decision to further his education instead of going straight into the industry.
“This is sort of incredibly important in my decision to go to graduate school,” he said.
It is also a great source of pride to be part of stopping such a huge Internet threat, he said. “I think that there is a need to better detect and stop these botnets. And that’s what we’re developing.”
Lu and Garant hope to continue developing their research into a software and hardware solution.