2010 Cyber-Threat Forecast Sees Hacks Growing in Sophistication and Reach

Vendor anti-virus think tank predicts cyber-criminals will target emerging file sharing, social networking technology and mobile devices -- and leave old methods behind in the new year.

by / December 31, 2009

The new year will usher in some interesting new changes in the world of malware and cyber-attacks, according to one company's predictions for 2010.

Watchful eyes will have to be kept on mobile phone apps, Google Wave accounts, file sharing and peer-to-peer networks -- cyber-criminals will target those in greater numbers, according to predictions released by Kaspersky Labs, a provider of Internet threat management solutions for combating malware.

As technology touches more lives, the bad guys will see more opportunities.

"Given the growing sophistication of threats -- it's no longer just an e-mail saying, 'Please click on this attachment,' and you get infected with something -- the schemes are much more elaborate than that," said Roel Schouwenberg, the company's senior malware researcher.

Released Dec. 16, the company's predictions and findings on 2010's greatest cyber-threats and new attack vectors may be a wake-up call for some.

"A lot of things that are happening are happening invisibly, and people will not notice anything until they see that they have lost money or that their identity has been stolen," Schouwenberg said.

The forecast is divided into six predictions about the threats of tomorrow:

o more interest in attacking via Google Wave accounts as the technology is used more;
o more attacks on iPhone and Android mobile platforms as they become more popular;
o more attacks from file sharing networks instead of from Web sites and applications;
o more mass malware epidemics being spread through peer-to-peer networks;
o less distribution of fake anti-virus programs as the market for this type of attack has been saturated and IT security professionals have been more diligent in cracking down on it; and
o more criminals providing malware traffic -- using botnets to send spam, distribute malware or performing denial-of-service attacks -- as a paid service for other criminals in subtle ways without actually committing crimes.

This means the good guys might have a tougher time fighting the good fight.

"Malware will continue to further its sophistication in 2010, with specific malware families requiring significant resources from anti-malware companies to adequately fight them," Schouwenberg said in a statement.

Although these attacks might become more pervasive, their growth could be mitigated by workplace policies that restrict or modify social networking and the usage of mobile devices while on the job.

"I'm quite sure that governments are a lot more strict about what kind of smartphones -- or phones in general -- may run compared to the average business," Schouwenberg said. "That goes for attacks on social networks. Some government agencies have social networks blocked."

Hilton Collins

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.