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Student's Company Protects from Possible Hackers


UCR Student Launches Web Site Protection Service with Help from Professor

StopTheHacker.com is an example of collaboration and entrepreneurship fostered through Bourns College of Engineering.

(July 22, 2009)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – Stopping the tangled Web of deceit is the end result of a new company launched by UCR student Anirban Banerjee, who received his Ph.D. last year, and Michalis Faloutsos, professor of computer science and engineering at UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering. The collaboration resulted in a Web site protection service called StopTheHacker.com

“Everyone who owns or manages a Web site should be aware of the dangers and have an active protection system,” said Faloutsos. “Unfortunately, very few people are aware of this. Most sites harbor at least one major vulnerability and more than 80 percent have had a critical security flaw. ”

What started as an idea from a doctoral student grew into a successful collaboration. However, Faloutsos first tried to persuade his student to shift his focus to other areas because this project was not connected to Banerjee’s Ph.D. research. His Ph.D. research focused on understanding how emerging technologies such as peer to peer (P2P) file sharing and Podcasts are affecting the Internet.

“I am glad he did not listen to me,” Faloutsos said.

With Faloutsos onboard, Banerjee was able to secure a $100,000 National Science Foundation Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant titled: "Stopping URL-fraud One Web Site at a Time.”

Although hard at work on his Ph.D., Banerjee admitted that he was fascinated by Web security and had been involved with it for the past few years.

“It is a constantly morphing arena,” he said. “There is something new to learn every day.”

The work is rewarding, too.

“I feel that my work with Jaal LLC (the holding company for StopTheHacker.com.) helps people in a direct way,” Banarjee said. “We help customers get their Web sites back on their feet. It’s a great feeling to get thank you e-mails.”

The service complements the other security functions of anti-virus, anti-spam, and firewall protection, thus making it more comprehensive.

“The hacker doesn’t want to hurt the site when they use code injection, they want it to continue to function so everyone will still go there,” Faloutsos said. “In the meantime, a search engine like Google comes along and checks the Web site and they blacklist it if they see a problem.”

Code injection is an emerging cyber-crime proliferation mechanism that introduces malicious code or hyperlinks in compromised, but legitimate Web sites. The hackers hurt the visitors of the Web site, who are infected by malware or viruses, or fall victim to identity theft.

Regardless of Web site size or the size of the company, the number of attacks is increasing at an alarming rate. Faloutsos said the Web site infection rate in 2008 is three times that of 2007.

“It’s not size that attracts would-be hackers, but traffic,” Faloutsos said. “If your Web site has nice interactive functions, like asking the user’s name or other questions, hackers can enter some characters that force the site to crash. Then the hacker can take control of the system.”

Faloutsos said that StopTheHacker.com’s advantage is that it provides services that are non-intrusive because they are offered on Software as a Service (SaaS) basis, and they are run outside the firewall. Users don’t have to install software or change anything from what is already being done by the Web site host. It fortifies the site before, during, and after an intrusion. It assesses a site’s vulnerability, detects security breaches and ensures the recovery of a compromised site. Each site is checked twice daily for 45 minutes.

So far, the response has been favorable, Faloutsos said.

“We got tremendous help, advice and encouragement from local companies and entrepreneurs,” Faloutsos said, “We already have paying customers and expect to have 10 to 20 Web sites under our protection this summer.”

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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