February 24, 2021
UF Cybersecurity Institute is Thwarting Ransomware

Photo: Bernard Brzezinski/UF

From left: CryptoDrop COO Kevin Butler; chief technology officer Nolen Scaife; and CEO Patrick Traynor

Northeast Florida Roundup

UF Cybersecurity Institute is Thwarting Ransomware

UF cybersecurity institute's program stalls new viruses before they spread.

Mark Basch | 4/27/2018

While spam emails annoy computer users, ransomware is a bigger potential risk, says Patrick Traynor, co-director of the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research at the University of Florida.

Hackers send innocentlooking e-mails with links that, once clicked, insert software — ransomware — into a computer that prevents users from accessing files, and puts the computer under the hacker’s control. The computer owner then gets a message demanding payment to regain control of the data.

“Spam has become very difficult to make a profit from,” says Traynor, who joined the innovative UF institute when it was formed four years ago, but “there’s major, major money to be made” from ransomware.

Researchers at the institute have developed antiransomware software and spun off a company called CryptoDrop to market the software to the public.

CryptoDrop is different from traditional anti-virus software because it doesn’t block ransomware from reaching your computer. Instead, it monitors your files to determine if any have been corrupted by ransomware and stops it from spreading.

“Your traditional anti-virus software is great at protecting you from yesterday’s threats,” says Traynor, but it can’t stop new viruses that haven’t been seen before. He says CryptoDrop can detect new threats.

Users may lose a few files before CryptoDrop identifies the problem, but Traynor believes that’s better than a full-scale takeover by a hacker. “We think that’s a pretty good tradeoff,” he says. “If you lose a handful of files, it may not be that big of a deal.”

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