Euro 2016: Cardiff Uni's Twitter trawl to stop viruses

Experts from Cardiff University will trawl social media during Euro 2016 in a bid to crack down on cyber crime.

Researchers will be investigating thousands of URL links attached to tweets about the tournament in France to see if they are spreading malicious computer viruses.

They hope the findings can help develop warning systems about cyber attacks.

The Euros have been chosen for the research due to the large amount of social media posts expected.

The football World Cup in Brazil two years ago was the most tweeted about event ever, at the time data was taken in 2014.

The team from the school of computer sciences and informatics will quickly trawl every tweet related to Euro 2016 with a special computer, known as an ‘”intelligent system”.

It will perform a number of background checks to test whether the link is malicious and, if so, the timing and severity of damage it could cause to a computer user.

‘Unseen attacks’

Dr Pete Burnap, director of the social data science lab at the university, said the fact URLs are often shortened on social media made it “incredibly difficult” to know which are legitimate.

“Once infected, the malware can turn your computer into a zombie computer and become part of a global network of machines used to hide information or route further attacks,” he said.

“At the moment, many existing anti-virus solutions identify malware using known code signatures, which make it difficult to detect previously unseen attacks.

“Our system is making a decision using code behaviour, which is more difficult for cyber criminals to mask.”

It is hoped the information can be used to help authorities create a future warning system that can flag a malicious link to the computer user in real-time.

Researchers hope it can also be rolled out in the form of an app to mobile users.