Villanova Computer Science Professor Helps Build Innovative Software to Prevent Ransomware

Henry Carter

Villanova, Pa.—Today’s technology evolves at a rapid pace, and faculty in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are not only plugged-in but also at the forefront of revolutionary research. Henry Carter, PhD, assistant professor of Computer Science, recently assisted in building CryptoDrop—software that detects and prevents ransomware from encrypting hundreds of files.

Ransomware is a type of malware that holds files hostage until the user pays the hacker a sum of money, causing millions of dollars of loss annually, according to Dr. Carter. It has recently been used to attack police station records and hospital databases and represents a growing threat.

Instead of the usual approach of searching for viruses or mysterious files, CryptoDrop monitors the user’s files and alerts him or her if a program attempts to eradicate numerous documents at once. In experimental evaluations, the program successfully identified and prevented one hundred percent of nearly 500 ransomware-like programs, according to Dr. Carter.

Dr. Carter focuses his research in information security, cryptography and mobile security. Through his work, he hopes to alleviate cyber security attacks and privacy concerns and plans to integrate his innovative research into the classroom.

“The privacy-preserving cryptographic techniques I have been researching have a lot of untapped potential for use in mobile applications,” he said. “I am excited to see what sorts of creative apps and use-cases the students here at Villanova can develop that use privacy-preserving protocols.”

Dr. Carter first got involved with CyptoDrop nearly two years ago at the University of Florida. While pursuing his postdoctoral research, he worked closely with three other researchers at the University. They submitted their work to the IEEE International Conference on Distributed Systems, and it has received press coverage from major news outlets including Forbes, the BBC and Huffington Post.

“I am continuing to collaborate with the lab at the University of Florida on turning the detector into a commercial system which we hope to make available to customers at some point,” he said.

In addition to his research, Dr. Carter loves working with students. He has found that Villanova, with its emphasis on the teacher-scholar model, is the perfect place for him to pursue both his research and his passion for teaching.

“I am happiest when I am teaching new computer scientists and working with students who are just developing their passion for computing, and continuing research is something I think is necessary to keeping me a relevant and up-to-date teacher,” said Dr. Carter. “Villanova provides an ideal balance of these two things, both for me and for the students.”

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:  Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world.  With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.

Media Contact

Jennifer Schu

Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

jennifer.schu@villanova.edu

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