Data61 releases dataset that could predict cyber attacks

By Shannon Jenkins

October 3, 2019

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Researchers at CSIRO’s Data61 have developed a public dataset that could help cyber security specialists predict future cyber attacks.

It comes days after numerous Victorian hospitals were victims of ransomware attacks.

Announced at D61+ Live in Sydney on Thursday, the FinalBlacklist dataset contains 51.6 million malicious activity reports, and involves 662,000 unique IP addresses that were separated into malware, phishing, fraudulent services, potentially unwanted programs, exploits, and spamming categories.

A joint effort between Data61, Macquarie University, Nokia Bell Labs and the University of Sydney, the dataset outlines the global cybersecurity threat landscape from 2007-2017 and is the largest of its kind.

Data61’s Information Security and Privacy research leader, Professor Dali Kaafar, said that malware has consistently been the weapon of choice for cyber criminals over the past decade. 

“Reports of phishing activities have also steadily risen, with a spike in 2009 coinciding with the increased adoption of smartphones. In 2013, another spike was experienced which can be linked to the growing popularity of digital payment systems which attracted unwanted attention from cyber criminals,” he said.

“Our analysis revealed a consistent minority of repeat offenders that contributed a majority of the mal-activity reports. Detecting and quickly reacting to the emergence of these mal-activity contributors could significantly reduce the damage inflicted.”

On Monday, hospitals in the Gippsland Health Alliance and the South West Alliance of Rural Health were hacked in a ransomware attack. According to the Victorian government, the affected hospitals had to disconnected a number of systems to “quarantine the infection”, and a full review will take place to address the incident.

Kaafar said the attack was an indication that “ransomware remains a persistent threat”.

Software and Computational Systems Research Director at Data61, Dr Liming Zhu, said the FinalBlacklist dataset was a significant contribution to cyber security research. 

“A retrospective analysis of historical mal-activity trends could help reduce the impact of cyber crime on the economy,” he said.

Data61 offered up some advice to avoid malicious online activity: Keep your operating system current, don’t pay the ransom, think before you click (beware of links or attachments in unsolicited emails), don’t reuse passwords, and install ad-blockers and JavaScript-blockers.

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