TU professor takes unique research perspective on Bitcoins

Dr. Tyler Moore began participating in cyber security research when he was an undergraduate here at the University of Tulsa. Now, after obtaining a graduate degree from the the University of Cambridge and doing research both at Harvard University and Southern Methodist University, Dr. Moore has returned to his alma mater to continue his research in the economics of cybercrime, primarily that of the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

Dr. Moore’s research approach is unique and unlike most cybersecurity research. Traditionally speaking, cybersecurity research deals with two sides: attacking a system and defending a system. Dr. Moore’s approach is one of a very economic view, studying the reasons why attackers do what they do and what motivates them to carry out certain attacks. “It’s a true mix of social and computer sciences,” says Moore, as he continues to research the strategies of attackers and how they are exploiting loopholes in common defensive strategies.

Moore has now turned the majority of his research towards Bitcoin. His first project dealt with the exchanges of Bitcoin, or as he describes it, the ‘banks of the Bitcoin world.” Bitcoin exchanges can be compared to those of actual banks before the times of the FDIC, as they don’t have any type of insurance or governing laws dictating how they should operate. Along with that, a person never personally holds a Bitcoin; instead, a Bitcoin is simply put into their personal account which is held by the Exchange. This makes a Bitcoin Exchange a very valuable target, because if you can break into an Exchange, you can seize control of the Bitcoin within that exchange, effectively making it your own.

However, unlike most cybersecurity research, Dr. Moore was not interested in the attacks used or the defenses implemented, but more in why the criminals did what they did, and why they took certain actions to reach their goal. Dr. Moore comments on this approach, saying it is a “macro view on a problem that is generally looked at in a very micro scale.” With various partners, Dr. Moore gathered a large amount of data from many attacks, mapping out why certain exchanges were attacked. Dr. Moore has also participated in research looking at the more popular topic of Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDoS attacks) against exchanges, which essentially render that exchange useless and unable to operate, denying a person’s ability to interact with the market via that exchange.

He is currently working with with an economist on correlating attacks against exchanges with transactions. Through the analytics of big data from all these attacks and transactions and taking an economy outlook, Moore hopes to be able to analyze the current security of the Bitcoin ecosystem from a macro perspective.

In the future, Dr. Moore says that cryptocurrency has a great potential, but faces many challenges in its infancy. Moore hopes to use his research to develop an economist view of the current cryptocurrency to help create new possibilities and policies in the future, as he says “crypto-currency will never be secure”. Instead of trying to create the next perfect cryptocurrency, Dr. Moore works to determine why certain attacks happen, and creating policies to help deter the want to attack exchanges.

Dr. Moore is always looking for new researchers, both at the graduate and undergraduate level and not only within computer science, but also within the social sciences. “I’m very excited about getting undergraduates into research, as I can relate to how exciting it was when I started my research as an undergrad here at TU,” Moore commented. He can be found on the 2nd Floor of Rayzor Hall, or you can contact him at tyler-moore@utulsa.edu.

Post Author: tucollegian

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