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Startup sets up website malware detection service

Startup StopTheHacker makes its debut today with a set of services for detecting malicious code implanted in websites by hackers who compromise sites to try to launch attacks on visitors to infected Web pages.

Co-founder Michalis Faloutsos, who is also a computer science professor at University of California at Riverside, said the San Francisco-based startup makes use of a Web-crawling technology to determine what specific parts of any website have had malware implanted by hackers.

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"If we find malware we notify the customer," says Faloutsos, adding that new services later this month will also include removing the malware code on behalf of customers. While a number of other firms provide similar services, including Armorize and Dasient (recently acquired by Twitter), StopTheHacker is seeking to distinguish itself through what it claims is a better mousetrap for malware often spotted in the form of iFrame attacks and JavaScript code.

"Most of the competition have big databases of malware and try to do one-to-one matching," says Faloutsos. But StopTheHacker's technology is focused mainly on analyzing software behavior and properties, he says. The service is said to have a starting price of around $15 per month per website.

One customer that was an early adopter, Christopher Imaging based in Cumberland, Md., found its website infected a few times, which resulted in getting on Google's watch list and having its site flagged as infected. "I don't know how or why it happened," says Todd Christopher, president of the photographic imaging company, noting a few customers called to point out Google flagging the site. But by testing out the StopTheHacker service, Christopher found that it has detected a few malware infections. Staff at Christopher Imaging managed to remove a website infection on its own, but also found StopTheHacker staff to be helpful as well in that regard.

The technology was developed in tandem with Anirban Banerjee, the startup's vice president of research and development and co-founder, during his research as a student at the university. That research a few years ago received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, and now with additional investment capital from Russia-based Runa Capital and some private investors, StopTheHacker has opened its doors for business. Peter Jensen is CEO of the firm, which is said to have about 10 employees.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.


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