Increasing use of the same mobile device for personal and work purposes, cyber criminals developing smarter ways to deliver malware, and lots more fake anti-virus scams – those are among the dire predictions from security firms for online threats in the year ahead.
It’s a standard practice in the security industry as a new year dawns: ramp up the scare factor, because it’s fear that prompts users to invest in security products.
Not that it’s all sales-inducing hype; in the midst of all the woe there is some sound advice for web users on how to reduce the risk of exposure. Among the findings and forecasts:
As technologies become smarter and faster, the threats to these technological assets follow suit, according to Symantec’s Top Security and Storage Predictions for 2011. Widespread consumer adoption of mobile devices will see them making their way into workplaces "through the back door, blurring the lines between business and personal use”. Users will expect to be able to use the same web-capable device for private and work reasons, creating security problems for businesses. Unsecured mobile devices are seen as a major threat to the security of business networks.
Social networks are already under major scrutiny, as they’re increasingly used to deliver malware to unsuspecting users. This is done by luring them with messages offering rewards or "special” content, such as pictures and video. Malware distributors are expected to rely more heavily on this delivery method, bypassing email and other systems that can be controlled by ISPs.
"Spammers will try anything to get their spam past anti-spam filters, including tricks involving random text hidden in the body of the messages, images and message bodies with nothing but a URL to the main message located elsewhere on the web,” says MessageLabs Intelligence’s 2010 report. Efforts to bypass spam filters included emails that pretended to inform the recipient that they had a number of "unread” or "important” messages waiting for them on a well-known social networking web site. Opening the email just produced an ad for pharmaceuticals.
Fake anti-virus scams now comprise 12% of all malware detected in the wild, according to the latest research from Panda Security. So-called "scareware” delivers messages to computer users that their PC is infected, and urges them to purchase software to fix the problem. The "software” in fact does nothing.
So, to sum up: In the year ahead, web users need to be careful about their social networking – don’t accept unexpected invitations to do anything, especially if it involves clicking on a link. The same goes for invitations to download applications or software. You should know by now not to open emails from unknown sources, and apply common-sense rules when using a web-capable mobile device.
Be smart, and have a safe year online.