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Complex Targeted Attacks To Increase In 2011

Lavasoft : 21 December, 2010  (Technical Article)
Lavasoft predicts the security trends for 2011 including increased sophistication of attacks targeted at infrastructure and a peak in mobile malware
Lavasoft has announced its list of security predictions for 2011, anticipating the top threats that Internet users should be aware of this coming year as cyber criminals adapt their tactics, finding new ways to con people while they use the Internet.

Expectations for 2011 include not only an increase in malicious Internet attacks, but the online attackers will bolster their tactics using new twists on traditional methods - as well as focusing on newly emerging platforms - according to Lavasoft Malware Labs.

"We expect that traditionally successful and lucrative modes of attack on PCs, such as rogue threats and exploiting application vulnerabilities for programs people use on a daily basis, will see enhanced attacks using more subtle and sophisticated methods. At the same time, emerging operating systems and popular platforms, like smartphones, will likely attract increasing attacks - the more popular the platform becomes, the greater the incentive to attack," says Andrew Browne, head of Malware Labs at Lavasoft.

Lavasoft Malware Labs' analysts anticipate that the following five threat trends will dominate the security landscape in 2011:

1. Complex targeted attacks on companies and/or critical infrastructure. Stuxnet made headlines this year due to its complexity, highly precise targeting, and the use of multiple zero-day exploits and stolen digital certificates. While Stuxnet's intention to stay below the radar was not realized, we can expect to see further attempts to evade detection and to compromise fewer but higher value targets.

2. Zero-day application vulnerability exploits. Users understand the importance of applying operating system patches but are less aware of the need to apply security updates to applications; patches fixing application vulnerabilities are typically slow to appear, and it's not always apparent to the user that an update is available and that action needs to be taken, making it an easier malware target. Adobe's Flash and Reader applications bore the brunt of exploits in 2010 and were quick to be exploited - we can expect malware writers to react more quickly to leverage a wider array of application vulnerabilities.

3. Scareware and rogue (fake) security products. Rogue security software, also known as scareware, take the form of legitimate-looking anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware products and appear to be beneficial from a security perspective; in reality, they provide little or no protection, generate misleading alerts, or attempt to lure users into fraudulent transactions. The money made from this malware model ensures that cyber criminals will not abandon this profitable endeavor.

4. Mobile malware. Smartphones are becoming more ubiquitous and as more services involving financial transactions are made available to handsets, exploits that leverage vulnerabilities on smartphone operating systems are sure to be targets for cyber criminals. Recent examples of Android malware and proof of concept examples suggesting iPhones are not immune suggest these non-Windows platforms have already attracted the attention of malware writers.
5. Blackhat SEO. Cyber scammers will continue to poison search engine results using trending headlines and videos to lead to malicious sites in an attempt to distribute rogue (fake) security software and other types of malware.

To stay safe in 2011, Lavasoft recommends that users secure their computers with updated security software and stresses the need to stay aware and cautious of the types of threats they may encounter online. Lavasoft offers educational resources for computer users including frequent security updates on the Malware Labs' blog, The Rogue Gallery online database of known scareware programs, and the Lavasoft News monthly security newsletter.
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