All the hottest Internet technologies this year, including geolocation services, Web-enabled TVs, mobile devices running Google Android and Apple iOS, and online social networks, will be key targets of cybercriminals in 2011, a security firm predicts.
Consumer electronics and Internet companies have rushed to market this year with cutting-edge products and services that have already seen a significant increase in attacks and data loss, McAfee said in its list of threat predictions for next year. This trend will continue in 2011 with cybercriminals finding new ways to steal personal information from consumers flocking to these new technologies.
"We've seen significant advancements in device and social network adoption, placing a bulls-eye on the platforms and services users are embracing the most," Vincent Weafer, senior VP of McAfee Labs, said in a statement.
Apple products are expected to be among the top targets of cybercriminals in 2011. The company's Mac computers have long been spared the attention of hackers because of their small market share. That has changed with the company's rebirth as a major consumer electronics company.
McAfee expects the sophistication of Trojans and other malware for the Mac and Apple's iPhone and iPad to increase next year, escalating the risk of personal data and identity theft. Cybercriminals are also expected to target other mobile devices, such as Android-based phones and tablets. These devices are easy targets because many users are unknowledgeable about proper security and network operators are moving too slowly toward encrypting data.
Geolocation services, such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places, are providing cybercriminals with a treasure trove of personal information from users that hackers will use in crafting targeted attacks on the most popular social networking sites. The information cybercriminals will be gathering in real-time include who is sending messages and what are they saying, where the senders are located, what are their interests and what operating systems, applications and social media they are using.
All this information will lead to more sophisticated disguises for malicious content sent to people's inboxes. McAfee says more malware will resemble legitimate files and appear to come from a person's friends.
People with Internet-enabled TVs will see an increasing number of malicious apps for the most widely deployed media platforms, such as Google TV. These apps will target or expose private and identity data, and will add TVs to botnets traditionally comprised of compromised PCs. Botnet networks are created to send spam and launch denial-of-service attacks on Web sites.
The latter form of attack will be used more often next year by groups pushing a particular political agenda, McAfee says. The tactic received a lot of attention this month when supporters of WikiLeaks launched DoS attacks against companies that stopped doing business with the rogue Web site, after it published secret U.S. diplomatic documents. The attacks were to payback groups that launched their own DoS missions against WikiLeaks.
Finally, cyberespionage will increase this year. Such attacks will occur under the sponsorship or direction of a nation-state looking to tap into the computer systems of companies involved in global economic activities or other countries' national security projects. Such spying missions will target email archives, document stores, intellectual property repositories and other databases, McAfee says.