Cyber-espionage, along with privacy violations and social networking attacks facilitated by the increased use of mobile and tablet devices, will be the source of increased security threats over the coming months, according to PandaLabs.
Cyber-espionage targeting companies and government agencies around the world will dominate corporate and national information security landscapes, with the integrity of classified and other protected information on the line. Trojans are expected to be the weapon of choice for hackers focused on these highly-sensitive targets.
According to Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs, “We live in a world where all information is in digital form and is easily accessible if you know how. Today’s spies no longer need to infiltrate a building to steal information. As long as they have the necessary computer skills, they can wreak havoc and access even the best-kept secrets of organizations without ever leaving their homes.”
Consumers will continue to be targeted by cyber-criminals as they find ever more sophisticated ways to target social media sites for stealing personal data. Social engineering techniques exploiting users’ naivete have become the weapon of choice for hackers targeting personally-identifiable information.
“Social networking sites provide a space where users feel safe as they interact with friends and family. The problem is that attackers are creating malware that takes advantage of that false sense of security to spread their creations,” says Corrons. “It is very easy for cyber-criminals to trick users with generic messages like ‘Look, you’re on this video,’ for example. Sometimes, curiosity can be our own worst enemy.”
Following is a summary of what PandaLabs predicts as the major security trends of 2012:
Mobile malware: A year ago, PandaLabs predicted a surge in cyber attacks on mobile phones, and the fact that Android has become the number one mobile target for cyber-crooks in 2011 confirms that prediction. That trend will continue in 2012, with a new focus on mobile payment methods using Near-Field Communications (NFC) as these applications become increasingly popular.
Malware for tablets: Since tablets share the same operating system as smartphones, they are likely be targeted by the same malware. In addition, tablets might draw a special interest from cyber-crooks since people are using them for an increasing number of activities and are more likely to store sensitive data.
Mac malware: As the market share of Mac users continues to grow, the number of threats will grow as well. Fortunately, Mac users are now more aware that they are not immune to malware attacks and are increasingly using antivirus programs to protect themselves. The number of malware specimens for Mac will continue to grow in 2012, although still at a slower rate than for PCs.
PC malware: PC malware has grown exponentially over the past few years, and everything indicates that the trend will continue in 2012. Trojans, designed to sit silently on users’ computers, stealing information and transmitting it back to their handlers, will continue to be cyber-crooks’ weapon of choice; 75 percent of new malware strains in 2011 were Trojans.
SMBs under attack: Financial institutions are fairly well protected these days against malware. But smaller businesses are easier and cheaper targets to attack, and their customer databases can be a real treasure trove for hackers, particularly if credit card and other financial data is stored “in the clear.” Unfortunately, many small to medium-sized companies do not have dedicated security teams, which makes them much more vulnerable.
Windows 8: While not scheduled until November 2012, the anticipated next version of Microsoft’s operating system will offer cyber-crooks new opportunities to create malicious software. Windows 8 will allow users to develop malware applications for virtually any device (PCs, tablets and smartphones) running this platform, although this will likely not take place until 2013.