Future malware will steal behavioral and relationship patterns

Whenever something of tangible value exist, there will always be those who will try to steal it, says a group of international researchers that recently published a paper on future malware threats.

Building on that premise, they present the idea of malware that targets information that concerns user behavior and relationships. They maintain that social networks will not only be the playground on which this malware will spread, but also the main target – due to the massive amount of data concerning relationships and communication patterns between people.

I bet you can already guess that this kind of information would be extremely helpful to online marketers. It would offer them a chance to map the nuances of user behavior, demographics, lifestyle, status in the community and how they affect their spending behavior or influence the behavior of others.

So it is just a matter of time when malware authors will come up with a viable solution for how to harvest that kind of information. This type of malware should be thorough and spread slowly, so that it could escape getting noticed by antivirus software and/or network administrators.

They say that there is the possibility that this kind of malware already exists, only we haven’t spotted it yet. And they are particularly worried about the implications that the mapping of this kind of data would have for the user.

“Data network topologies and identifiers could be replaced with the press of a button. The same goes for passwords, usernames, or credit cards. An infected computer could be wiped and re-installed. An online e-mail, instant messenger, or social networking account could be easily replaced with a similar one, and the users’ contacts can be quickly warned of the original account’s breach,” they point out. “But the victim of a “behavioral pattern” theft cannot easily change her behavior and life patterns.”

They are right, because what can you do? Sever all ties with friend and family? The name the researchers have given to this future malware attack type seems now quite fitting – they called it “Stealing Reality”.

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