2012 Threats: Are You Ready?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Robert Siciliano

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History is said to be a good indicator of what might come in the future. If you follow trends in how things are done and what tends to gain momentum then you can get a pretty good idea of what’s ahead.

McAfee Labs is made up of security professionals who spend all their waking hours observing and combating threats to our digital identifies.

If anyone is in a position to give us a window into the future on information technology threats, it’s these guys and gals. Here’s what they are predicting we should watch out for in 2012:

-   Attacks on critical infrastructure and utilities — Attackers from all over the world have set their focus on critical life supporting utilities such as water and power to hold those utilities hostage for payment or to disable them to cause terror.

This is the kind of industrial threat that many consumers fear. Unfortunately, many industrial and national infrastructure networks were not designed for modern connectivity, making them vulnerable.

-   Political hacktivism — Hactivism is the use of computers or computer networks to protest or promote political change. “Anonymous” is the group which was active last year doing high profile activities such as briefly taking down New York Stock Exchange’s website in support of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

-   Spam, spam, and more spam — Spam is getting easier and cheaper based on the U.S.’ CAN-SPAM Act. Shady, for profit, advertisers are making a mint selling lists to spammers, as advertisers are not required to receive consent before sending advertising.

-   Mobile malware — PCs are still the low hanging fruit. But as more mobiles are used for mobile commerce (mCommerce), virus makers are creating malware designed take over your phone or to deliver a variety of ads or even send expensive text messages from your phone.

-   Hacked cars, GPS and any wireless equipment — Cybercriminals are now targeting embedded operating systems or even hardware to gain control of everything from cars to global positioning system (GPS) trackers and medical equipment.

-   Cyberwar — Not trying to create fear here, just from observation, McAfee Labs has seen an increase in high-tech spying and other “cyber” techniques to gain intelligence.

As technology evolves and our use of the Internet and mobile devices becomes more complex, cybercriminals are also evolving and honing their skills with new types of attacks.

But although some of the threats may seem scary, the reality is many offer new takes on old forms of attack and with a little bit of foresight and preparedness we can guard against them.

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Online Security Evangelist. See him discussing attacks on our critical infrastructure on Fox News (Disclosures)

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