Taking on the Cyber Hackers

Understanding contemporary cyberspace attacks protects businesses and individuals.

Western Sydney University’s Dr Abubakar Bello is developing proactive security and defence strategies to thwart cyber criminals and make the internet a safer place.

Bello, a lecturer at Western’s School of Social Sciences, is an expert in ransomware attacks. These attacks begin with malicious software encrypting a user’s system or personal files, and is followed up by a demand for the victim to pay before they can regain access to the files, which is not always guaranteed.

The internet of things (IoT) makes data even more vulnerable to hackers. Individual smart appliances could be infected and rendered inoperable, with a ransom demand of as little as $20. The ransom amount is often much lower than the cost of repair for damage caused by forcing a smart door or fridge, for example.

Bello and his colleagues are intrigued by the human behavioural factors that make ransomware so profitable to online thieves. They aim to identify what type of cybersecurity awareness and education programmes are needed to protect the public against these attacks. “The more people know and understand about the risks, the better their chances of staying protected,” he explains.

Bello sees significant gaps in national and international research around the development of effective cyber security awareness and educational programmes that aim to improve users’ safety. “Even in cyber-advanced nations like the US, where several government-sponsored security initiatives encourage secure cyber behaviour, there is a lack of protective measures against current and future methods of ransomware attacks.”

Need to know

  • Ransomware is a cyberattack where a user’s files are made inaccessible until a ransom is paid.
  • There are gaps in cybersecurity awareness and education.
  • Abubakar Bello is trying to develop proactive defence strategies against such attacks.

Bello is investigating contemporary types of ransomware attacks and seeking to understand patterns in the behaviour of the attackers. He has a strong interest in the role that cyber security has on performance and satisfaction, including security in social networks.

An important aspect of Bello’s project is to link Western Sydney University’s cybersecurity work with local corporations and government organisations to provide cybersecurity audits and risk management services. This includes Gridware, one of the few firms in Australia at the forefront of cyber defence. Gridware’s involvement in the project will include the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning based monitoring and reporting technologies, as well as incident response and management control frameworks.

“My research has been about the chance to make a critical difference in our increasingly digital world,” says Bello. “With my research in areas such as the IoT and ransomware, I believe I am providing a vital support service for the vast number of businesses, individuals and organisations targeted by cyber criminals.”

Meet the Academic | Doctor Abubakar Bello

Dr Abubakar Bello is currently an ACA and Lecturer in Cyber Security and Behaviour at the School of Social Sciences: Criminology and Policing discipline, Western Sydney University. He received his doctorate degree in IT with a technical, business and social focus on Information Security and Privacy from Murdoch University, MBA from Western Sydney University, and MSc and Bsc in Computer Science from the University of Wolverhampton UK.  He has extensive teaching experience ranging across various information systems, cyber security and risk management courses, and also worked across several corporations, privately held entities and government organisations in Australia where he provided technology audit and security risk management services.  He is currently researching on Active Cyber Defence Security Strategies (ACDS) for fighting cyber crime; and the role of cyber security controls on people performance and satisfaction. He also has a strong interest in conducting research in areas such as security in social networks, security predictive analytics, cyber physical systems, security and dependability, business applications, trust, privacy, cyber forensics, cyber security risks and decision making, and the psychology of security compliance in the cyber space.

Abubakar is also a member of professional and academic computing society bodies, and has been an ad hoc reviewer of academic journals. 

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Future-Makers is published for Western Sydney University by Nature Research Custom Media, part of Springer Nature.