Top security threats of 2012

Panda Security’s Panda Labs have recently reported that privacy violations and data theft will be the top security issues in 2012.

Traditional threats, together with cyber-espionage, mobile and social networking attacks aimed at companies and government agencies, will be as predominant as last year. There have been countless attacks aimed at stealing secret or classified information in New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the European Parliament.

“We live in a world where majority of all information is in digital form, so modern-day spies no longer need to infiltrate a building to steal information. As long as they have the necessary computer skills, they can wreak havoc and access the best-kept secrets of organizations without ever leaving their living-rooms”, said Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs.

Cyber-criminals will continue to target social media sites in attempt to steal personal data from home users. Social engineering techniques that exploit users’ weaknesses have become the leading attack method for hackers.

“Social networking sites provide a space where users feel safe as they interact with friends and family. The problem is that attackers are creating worms that take advantage of that false sense of security to spread their creations, and it is really easy for them to trick users with generic messages like ‘Look, you’re on this video’ for example. Sometimes, curiosity can be our own worst enemy” explained Corrons.

Panda Labs predicts the following summary of major security trends in 2012:

  • Mobile malware: Panda Labs predicted a surge in cyber attacks on mobile phones – and the fact that Android has become the number-one mobile target for cyber-crooks in 2011, confirms that prediction. In 2012 there will be new attacks on Android, but not on a massive scale. New mobile payment methods – via NFC for example – could become the next big target for Trojans but, as always, this will largely depend on their popularity.
  • Malware for tablets: The fact that tablets share the same operating system as smartphones means that they will be soon targeted by the same malware as those platforms. In addition, tablets might draw a special interest from cyber-crooks, as people are using them for an increasing number of activities.
  • Mac malware: As the market share of Mac users continues to grow, so does the number of threats. It now seems that Mac users are more aware that Mac is not immune to malware attacks, and are increasingly using antivirus programs, hindering cyber-crooks.
  • PC malware: In the past few years, the number of malware threats has grown exponentially, and it seems to indicate that the trend will continue in 2012. Trojans are cyber-crooks’ weapon of choice for their attacks. Three out of every four new malware strains created in 2011 were Trojans, designed to sit silently on users’ computers and steal information.

Cyber-crooks target small to medium-sized companies banking online, as they do not have strong security systems – making them vulnerable and attractive for cyber-thieves looking to steal confidential information from users in one go.

The next version of Microsoft’s popular operating system is not supposed to have much of an impact on the malware landscape in 2012, however it will surely offer cyber-crooks new opportunities to create malicious software.

Windows 8 will allow users to develop applications for virtually any device (PCs, tablets and smartphones) running Windows 8, so it will be possible to develop malicious applications like those for Android. This, in any event, will probably not take place until 2013.

“The overall picture is not improving. As new technologies advance, cyber-crooks develop new modes of attack sometimes by simply adapting old techniques to the new platforms. In the end, users’ false sense of security is cyber-crooks’ best friend,” concluded Corrons.

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Top security threats of 2012