The Daily Gleaner: International internship brings world’s top students to UNB

Ashutosh Jain is working on something that could change Android phones forever and he chose to do that work right here in Fredericton.

The Varanasi, India native has been spending his summer at the University of New Brunswick researching a new way to detect malware on a smart phone and the person behind the malicious software.

“He (Jain) is on a bigger scale if you will, to be able to develop sort of a magical box so that people, once they face a (malware) threat, it can immediately tell you where it’s coming from, who wrote it, who’s involved in it and who’s behindit, which is much more important than scanning emails,” said Natalia Stakhanova, Jain’s supervisor and the innovation research chair in Cyber Security at UNB. “If you look at this from a law enforcement perspective, this is exactly what you need to know. How can we apprehend the person who is behind all these malware threats that are happening?”

Jain is focusing on developing a malware screening product for the Android operating systems because almost all malware is made to target the little green alien brand of devices.

“Ninetyeight per cent malware (is made for Android),” Stakhanova said. Jain added this is because Android is one of the most popular types of mobile device. Stakhanova and Jain explained that most malware is hidden as an app that can be bought in the Android app store,Google Play.

She compared the apps to compressed files and said a malware author can take a legitimate app from the store, unzip the folder and stick malware among the normal files before putting it back into the store.

Jain hopes that once his detection program is complete, Google might use it to scan all their apps before posting them in the store. Jain is doing his research in Fredericton as part of the Mitacs Globalink internship program.

Mitacs is a company that helps make Canada more innovative by helping to make connections between industry, academia and the rest of the world.

He chose to take part in the program because he had started his malware detection project and wanted to work on it some more.

“During my college, I was working with my friend and … we decided we should get into new freelance really hard,” Jain said. “Probably in the future everybody will be switching to hand held devices. We thought Android malware was a good field, so we decided to do a data link analysis on that.” His freelance work is what connected him with Stakhanova, who told him about the Globalink program.

“I was searching for projects and I found a project on Android Security and Natalia was working on it,” Jain said.

He emailed her, she sent him some malware samples and then they discussed the possibility of his working here this summer. The rest went from there.

Eric Bosco, the business development officer with Mitacs, says they typically approach students and ask them if they want to participate in the internship.

The students they approach are some of the world’s best and are from some of the world’s fastest technologically developing countries like China and India.

“Canada is a great country,” Bosco said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s a rich country, it’s part of the G7, or the G8 depending on who you talk to, but we’re a pretty big country with a very small population.” We don’t have the critical mass to supply the necessary brainpower needed going forward, he said.

“Globalink tries to address that (problem). The way to think about it is we’re trying to build a strong and robust international Rolodex for our needs going forward so we can stay competitive,” he said. “Countries like China and India, they’re emerging very quickly and it will be challenging to us because they’ve got such numbers and so many brains to draw from.”

Bosco said having the students from these areas is a great benefit to our country because they can help Canada grow as well. “We try to connect with the very top students in some of these emerging countries at a time when they are accessible to us,” he said. “Once they become CEO’s of companies or when they become the toptier researcher in their university, or once they start their companies, once they start making things happen, everyone’s knocking on their door and it gets pretty much impossible for us to try and have access to them. We try to connect with them one year before they finish their undergrad program by bringing them to Canada to do a research internship at our universities.”

He said the students end up doing research at 45 different universities across Canada. Globalink began in 2009 and since then more than 2,000 students have taken part in the program.

“This year we’ve got 750 students that are in the country right now,” Bosco said. Even though engineering might be the most popular field of research among the students participating in Mitacs

Globalink, Bosco said that isn’t the only discipline they take interest in. “Our programs are open to all disciplines,” he said. “Engineering is a big piece, but we actually have quite a few (students) that are coming from some business schools and we’ve had some also in social sciences.”

While the program has many benefits for the country, Jain says there are also many benefits for the students involved. A big one is the opportunity to make connections.

“I’ve met a lot of people,” he said. “I’m a bit shy, but yeah, I like meeting new people and working with people with similar interests. In college I was working with friends, but here I’m working with professors.” Stakhanova sees many benefits for the university as well.

“I think this is a great program for us to introduce new students, especially bright students coming from other places to our world. Our group is very international and we’re trying to maintain it this way so there’s a chance for everyone who comes in to learn a little bit more about our culture,” she said. Plus, it’s a great help on the research side, she said. The students are talented, motivated and well prepared.

“They come and they’re able to contribute to the research or the project we have running here. It’s just beneficial from a research perspective, student perspective and even a university perspective to show off the resources and campus,” said Stakhanova.

Jain hopes to have the visualization portion of his project done before his 12 weeks in New Brunswick are complete.When asked about his favourite part of the internship, Jain immediately talked of the work itself. “I like writing scripts,” he said.

Scripts are text instructions that he writes to make the malware detector work.

But, he said he’s enjoying the capital region as well.

“I’ve learned a lot during my summer, I like it here,” he said. “The culture is nice.”

To learn more about the Mitacs Globalink internship program, visit

By: Rebecca Howland