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12/24/2009
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Top 10 Security Challenges For 2010

Cloud-hosted malware, bot blasts, compromised smartphones, and privacy-busting malvertising are a few of the security pitfalls we can expect this year.

Computing is in a state of constant change. Apps are migrating toward the cloud. Mobile devices are changing the way we interact with our machines and the way we connect to networks. Real-time information has become increasingly important. The threats are changing too.

With 2010 freshly upon us, 'tis the season to ponder future threats. Last month's threat of a portly, bearded man entering one's household through a chimney was mitigated by a sufficiently hot flame, but cybercriminals aren't bothered by physical barriers. They can enter computers through network cables or a wireless connection and make off with valuable information.

Defending against such threats may require an investment in security, but for most IT pros, that's preferable to receiving an e-mail from a hacker that reads, "IM IN UR PC STEALIN UR DATA."

While predicting the future too well is self-defeating -- published foreknowledge of a planned attack would lead attackers to try something else -- consideration of past and current trends can offer insight into tomorrow's danger zones.

What follows are a few predictions about what may come in the world of computer security.

1. Spam, Scams Go Social And Realtime

Security researchers at Websense, Breach Security, IBM Internet Security Systems' X-Force, and Symantec concur that cybercriminals will escalate attacks on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, and on real-time social sites like Twitter. With Google and Bing, not to mention Google Wave, integrating realtime features, scammers know that time is increasingly on their side: Often it takes time to recognize a malicious link or file and unless countermeasures are more or less immediate, there will always be at least some victims.

Contrarian view: For those who never really bought into the social network, real-time craze, such dangers offer another reason to hope that the computing world gets its own equivalent of the slow food movement. Speed may be Google's most cherished goal, but it also increases the velocity of risk.

2. Crime Cloud

Security vendors AVG, M86, and RSA foresee criminals attacking cloud services and using them to direct and control attacks. Cybercrime toolkits are already widely used. It's only a small step from there to cybercrime as a service. IBM ISS X-Force researchers expect more "exploits-as-a-service," and that's not a hard call to make when you have Amazon AWS already being used to host a malware command and control server.

Sam Curry, VP product management and strategy at RSA, said, "Expect a lot of attention in 2010 to how risk side [of the cloud] is mitigated."

Contrarian view: While cybercriminals have experimented with services like Google's App Engine to control attacks, the level of oversight at such services, not to mention the fact that payment is usually required, will make the free malware hosting offered by poorly secured Web sites and databases a better deal. Why bother pretending to be a paying customer when you can just break in and plant malware on someone else's machine?

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