Online malicious activity was a major headache in 2010, and so far, 2011 is no different: We’ve seen scams and malware on Twitter, Facebook, and the Android Market, as well as a rise in politically motivated online attacks. But that’s no surprise to security experts such as Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security firm Sophos. Cluley says that Sophos analyzes about 95,000 pieces of malware every day that is either brand-new or a variant of an older attack.
Threat 1: Mobile Apps
What it is: It isn’t surprising that smartphones are a hot new malware target: 85 percent of adults in the United States own a mobile phone, according to a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and the smartphone market is growing at a rapid pace.
Threat 2: Social Network-Based Scams
Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter may be a great place to connect with friends, but they are also a breeding ground for malicious activity. Cluley says some of the most rapid growth in online attacks comes from social networks.
Threat 3: Fake Antivirus
What it is: Although they’ve been around for a few years now, fake antivirus scams are on the rise, according to Cluley. In the last eight months, Sophos says, it has analyzed more than 850,000 instances of fake antivirus. Also known as “scareware,” these scams start by convincing you to download a free antivirus program, sometimes appearing to be software from a reputable security company. Then the software claims your computer is under threat from a virus and you can save your system by buying a “full” version of the antivirus program for a one-time fee.
Once you do that, however, not only have you allowed more potential malware onto your computer, but you may have also handed over your credit card credentials to identity thieves. At that point, the bad guys can drain your bank account or steal your identity.
Threat 4: PDFs
It may be the oldest online scam in the book, but e-mail loaded with malware attachments is still a big problem despite a high degree of awareness and robust antivirus scanning in Webmail clients such as Gmail and Yahoo (YHOO) Mail.
PDF documents appear to be a prime method for these attacks, according to a recent report by MessageLabs, a division of Symantec (SYMC). “PDFs are potentially one of the most dangerous file formats available and should be treated with caution..
Threat 5: War Games
State-sponsored malware attacks, industrial espionage, and hacktivism are on the rise, according to Perimeter E-Security’s Jaquith. They may not be threats that affect everyone, but if you manage security for a business, they are the sorts of issues you should be paying attention to.
The hacktivist group Anonymous, for example, grabbed headlines this year for mounting attacks in defense of whistle-blower site WikiLeaks, and attacking government Websites in support of recent protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.