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Computer threat trend forecast for 2010

Dec 16

2009 is coming to an end, so it’s time to talk about what we expect to happen in 2010 . I’ve been looking into my crystal ball and this is the result…

More clouds on the security horizon

Welcome to the cloud. In 2007, we launched our first product which took advantage of the cloud, now in 2009 all our products use it and we have launched the first 100% cloud-based antivirus: Panda Cloud Antivirus (www.cloudantivirus.com). We have also seen this year how other major security vendors have followed our steps and taken to the cloud. 2010 will be the year in which all anti-malware companies wanting to offer real-time protection will have to follow suit. And those that don’t will be out of the game.

An avalanche of malware

The amount of malware in circulation will continue to grow exponentially. The greater speed delivered by cloud-based technologies, such as Panda’s Collective Intelligence, will force malware creators to generate even more threats in order to evade detection and elimination. Once again malware will be designed almost exclusively for financial gain, and we can expect to see many new fake antiviruses (rogueware), bots and banker Trojans.

Social engineering

Cyber-criminals will again be focusing on social engineering techniques to infect computers, particularly those targeting search engines (BlackHat SEO) and social networks, along with ‘drive-by-download’ infections from Web pages.

As the football World Cup takes place in South Africa, we can also expect to see significant amounts of malware related to this event: false ticket offers, junk mail, etc. It is always a good idea to take a suspicious view of any messages related with current affairs and large events such as this.

In the case of social networks, there have already been many examples of worms and Trojans targeting Twitter, Facebook, etc. Malware creators will continue to be drawn to these types of platforms used by so many people.

Windows 7

Windows 7 will have a major impact on malware development: where Windows Vista hardly caused a ripple, Windows 7 will make waves. One of the main reasons is the widespread market acceptance of this new OS, and as practically all new computers are coming with Windows 7 64-bit, criminals will be busy adapting malware to the new environment. It may take time, but we expect to see a major shift towards this platform over the next two years.

Cell phones

Will 2010 be the year of malware for cell phones? Several security companies have been warning for some time that malware is soon to affect cell phones in much the same way as it affects PCs. Well, we hate to rain on their parade, but 2010 will not be the year of malware for cell phones.

The PC is a homogenous platform, with 90% of the world’s computers running Windows on Intel, meaning that any new Trojan, worm, etc. has a potential victim pool of 90% of the world’s computers. The cell phone environment is much more heterogeneous, with numerous vendors using different hardware and different operating systems.

Applications are sometimes not even compatible from one OS version to another. So it is once again unlikely that 2010 will see widespread targeting of cell phones by malware. In any event, this year will witness many changes in the world of mobile telephony with more smartphones offering practically the same features as a PC; the emergence of Google Phone –first phone sold directly by Google without tying users to specific operators-; the increasing popularity of Android, not to forget the success of the iPhone. If in some years there are only two or three popular platforms, and if people begin to operate financial transactions from their cell phones, then maybe we could talk about a potential breeding ground for cyber-crime.

Mac

Mac: has the danger arrived? Mac’s market share has increased in recent years. Although the number of users has yet to reach the critical mass required to make it as profitable as PCs for cyber-criminals, it is nevertheless becoming more attractive. Mac is used just as PCs are to access social networks, email, the Internet… and these are the main malware distribution systems used by cyber-criminals. Consequently, Mac is no longer a safe haven against malware. These criminals can easily distinguish whether a system is Mac, and they have malware designed especially to target this OS. In 2009 we have already seen numerous attacks, and there are more to come in 2010.

The Cloud

Cloud-based services are not just used for security. We are all using more services delivered from the cloud, often without realizing. Who doesn’t use Hotmail or Gmail as their email service, or Flickr to store photos? But cloud-based services are not limited solely to storage, they are also used for processing data. The cloud is a tool that can help save considerable costs for companies, and as such is rapidly growing in popularity. This makes attacks on cloud-based infrastructure/services far more likely.

Cyber war

Although this term is more associated with science fiction than the real-world, it’s a phrase we are about to start hearing more often. Throughout 2009, governments around the world including the United States, the UK and Spain, have expressed concern about the potential for cyber-attacks to affect economies or critical infrastructure. We also saw this year how several Web pages in the United States and South Korea were the subject of attacks, with suspicion –as yet unapproved- pointing at North Korea. In 2010 we can expect to see similar politically-motivated attacks.

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