Madison researchers tackle software security - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison researchers tackle software security

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Cybercrime is a growing problem around the world as hackers are constantly finding ways to get your personal information, but a team of researchers have developed a program that aims to stop security breaches.

UW-Madison and the Morgridge Institute on campus teamed up with Indiana University and the University of Illinois to create the Software Assurance Marketplace, known as SWAMP, to find ways to eliminate vulnerabilities in software that's all around us.

"The idea behind the marketplace is that it will help people to develop better tools and make it easier for software developers to adopt these tools," says Miron Livny, SWAMP director and UW computer science faculty member.

It's an online, free resource for software developers-- the first of its kind-- just up and running in February. It takes all the tools available for assessing software security and puts them in one place.

Software developers can sign up, log in and look for bad code in their software. SWAMP researchers say up to 90 percent of the code found in software is open source, already written and widely-shared.

"It's kind of a group-think kind of thing going on, but then you don't know if all those characters really know what they're doing, so now we have an opportunity to test it to make sure there's not vulnerabilities," says Pat Beyer, SWAMP's project manager.

With the help of SWAMP, software developers can pinpoint any bad code, because a bad code could mean a security breach for consumers. SWAMP researchers say their program might have prevented devastating compromises like the Target security breach in late 2013, by identifying weaknesses in Target's system.

The idea for SWAMP started almost 10 years ago at UW and gained attention from federal security officials. SWAMP is supported by a $23 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The project has created 26 jobs in Madison over the next five years.

The group has also started working with commercial companies like HP and students at local high schools, trying to get future software developers thinking about the importance of security as soon as possible.

SWAMP is essentially limitless. It can operate 57 million assessments every minute. Researchers hope to spread the word and encourage all developers to put security at the top of their agenda.
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