Cyber Research Institute + CS Professor Nikiforakis Tackle Tech Support Scams


Nick Nikiforakis, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Stony Brook University, has been awarded a grant from the Cyber Research Institute (CRI) for his research and work in technical support scams.

The grant will fund his research project, Tools and Techniques for Understanding and Detecting Technical Support Scams, investigates technical support scams in order to better understand techniques used by scammers and design effective defense systems against those scams.

The project aligns with the CRI’s mission, which is to encourage partnerships that leverage the federal, state and private training, research, development, demonstration and technology transfer resources to: - Protect the integrity of cyber-based infrastructure - Facilitate the transfer of cyber technology to effective market applications - Establish and foster a sustainable program that will grow the cyber-based economy in NY - Expand the region's cyber-based workforce - Promote New York State as the leader in public/private sector collaboration in cyber-based research and protection

Nikiforakis described what happens during a technical support scam: “users are tricked into thinking that they are interacting with a technician of a large software company, when, in reality, they are interacting with a scammer posing as a technician. Scammers then use a wide range of social engineering techniques to get access to the computers of their victims, convince them that they are infected with malware, and then charge them a fee for removing the purported infection.”

He also added that though the techniques used by scammers are simple, they cost innocent users hundreds of millions of dollars on a yearly basis.

“I am excited about this project because we have the chance to make a lasting difference,” Nikiforakis said. “People that fall victims to these scams lose not only money and time, but also confidence on the Internet and its great advantages.”

Nikiforakis, whose academic interests revolve around hands-on security and privacy, including analysis of online ecosystems and understanding domain squatting, said that he is thankful to the Cyber Research Institute for the grant he received. “Without their support, we would not be able to spend the time and resources necessary to protect innocent users from technical support scams,” he said.

Prior to joining Stony Brook University in 2014, Nikiforakis worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher at KU Leuven where he earned his PhD in Computer Science in 2013. He received his B.Sc and M.Sc in Computer Science from the University of Crete. Nikiforakis teaches Network Security and System Security courses at Stony Brook and is a member of the National Security Institute.