McAfee unveiled its Threat Predictions report (PDF), outlining the top cybersecurity threats organizations and individuals are likely to face in 2012. McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel (INTC), says that for the most part, 2012 looks like it will look like 2011 only worse, with many of the recent threats gaining momentum. Here are the predictions:
Industrial Attacks: Cybercriminals will target Water, electricity, oil and gas utilities. These are essential services to everyday lives, yet many industrial systems are not ready for cyberattacks according to McAfee. Many of the environments where SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems are deployed don’t have stringent security practices. McAfee predicts attackers will leverage this lack of preparedness with greater frequency, if only for blackmail or extortion in 2012.
Legalized spam volumes have declined in the past two years. However, legitimate advertisers are picking up where the spammers left off using the same spamming techniques, such as purchasing third-party email lists or databases from companies going out of business. McAfee Labs expects to see this “legal” spam and the technique known as “snowshoe spamming” to continue to grow at a faster rate than illegal phishing and confidence scams.: McAfee Labs says global
Mobile Threats: 2011 has seen the largest levels in mobile malware history, McAfee Labs expects that continue in 2012. They expect mobile attackers to improve on their skill set and move toward mobile banking attacks. Techniques previously dedicated for online banking, such as stealing from victims while they are still logged on while making it seem that transactions are coming from the legitimate user, will now target mobile banking users. McAfee Labs expects attackers will bypass PCs and go straight after mobile banking apps, as more and more users handle their finances on mobile devices.
Embedded systems are designed for a specific control function within a larger system, and are commonly used in automotive, medical devices, GPS devices, routers, digital cameras and printers. McAfee Labs expects to see proofs-of-concept codes exploiting embedded systems to become more effective in 2012 and beyond. This will require malware that attacks at the hardware layer, and will enable attacks to gain greater control and maintain long-term access to the system and its data. Sophisticated hackers will then have complete control over hardware.:
Cyberwar: Countries are vulnerable due to massive dependence on computer systems and a cyberdefense that primarily defends only government and military networks. Many countries realize the crippling potential of cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, such as water, gas and power, and how difficult it is to defend against them. McAfee Labs expects to see countries prove their cyberwar capabilities in 2012, to send a message.
Rogue Certificates: Organizations and individuals tend to trust digitally signed certificates, however, recent threats such as Stuxnet and Duqu used rogue certificates to evade detection. McAfee Labs expects to see the production and circulation of fake rogue certificates increase in 2012. Wide-scale targeting of certificate authorities and the broader use of fraudulent digital certificates will affect key infrastructure, secure browsing and transactions as well as host-based technologies such as whitelisting and application control.
Legislative Issues: DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) are meant to protect a client computer from inadvertently communicating with a host as a result of a man-in-the-middle attack. Governing bodies around the globe are taking greater interest in establishing “rules of the road” for Internet traffic, and McAfee Labs expects to see more and more instances where future solutions are hampered by legislative issues.
Hacktivism: McAfee Labs predicts that in 2012 digital disruptions like Anonymous will join forces with physical demonstrators and will target public figures such as politicians, industry leaders, judges and law-enforcement, more than ever before.
Virtual Currency: McAfee Labs expects cybercurrency will be an attractive target for cybercriminals. to see threats evolve to steal money from unsuspecting victims or to spread malware.
Hardware Attacks: McAfee Labs expects to see more effort put into hardware and firmware exploits to create persistent malware in network cards, hard drives and even system BIOS (Basic Input Output System). and their related real-world attacks through 2012.
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