Data Breach News

Utah Student Develops Anti-Phishing Tool To Thwart Hackers

High school student creates 'VEGA' program to feed phishing pages false information, claims to be able to take down about 30 phishing pages a month.

by Alan J June 3rd, 2024

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A group of Utah students have taken it upon themselves to counter phishing attempts by using their computer skills to bring down fraudulent websites, thereby protecting potential victims.

One of the Davis County high school juniors, Charles Mortensen, developed VEGA. This system aims to protect phishing victims and outsmarting hackers by feeding them false information and rendering their phishing pages useless.

Utah Student Motivated By Personal Connection to Hacking Victims

“All my friends and peers around me got hacked,” Mortensen told a local reporter. Mortensen, a student at Davis County High School, said he witnessed a rising tide of hacking incidents within his community. He cited an incident where a friend of his residing in foster care fell victim to an Instagram phishing attempt, jeopardizing her only means of maintaining contact with her mom.

Affected by these hacking incidents among his peers, Mortensen took it upon himself to create VEGA (Victims’ Empowerment Guard against Attacks). As phishing websites expect victims to enter legitimate information or credentials for compromise, VEGA attempts to subvert these attempts by feeding them fake details such as fake usernames and fake passwords.

Source: kslnewsradio.com (Credit: Charles Mortensen)

Mortensen has stated that he has observed success with the VEGA system’s attempts to feed hackers with streams of false information. He was quoted by KSL News Radio as saying, “I can send about half a million requests to one hacker within a night. I just let VEGA run overnight and then normally when I wake up … the website [is] shut down.”

Student Sought Help From Peers With Anti-Phishing System

While Mortensen is limited to running the program on his own personal system for now, he expressed his hopes to get VEGA running on ‘a whole bunch of computers.’ He claims that VEGA is able to take down thirty phishing sites within a month, and access to more computer systems could allow him to take down thousands of phishing sites in a month.

Mortensen is seeking a sponsor to enable him to access more computers systems, allowing him to develop a bigger system that could potentially dismantle much larger volumes of phishing sites. Mortensen is a high school junior at the Davis Catalyst Center and sought help from his friends Regan Hosea and Jordan Kingston in helping him make this system work better after developing the first release of VEGA.

If Mortensen’s claims of taking down phishing sites are as claimed, they could potentially serve an example of the initial stages of an innovative system to counter phishing, which remains a significant security challenge affecting organizations of all sizes. Mortensen’s VEGA system could offer hope to the phishing victims among his peers while fostering further collaboration in developing similar defenses against rising security threats.

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