"It is undoubtedly the preferred method of infection for compromising systems transparently, used by both cyber-criminals and intelligence agencies in countries around the world," said Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs.
In 2012, Java, which is installed on hundreds of millions of devices, was repeatedly compromised and used to actively infect millions of users. Adobe, given the popularity of its applications (Acrobat Reader, Flash, etc.) and its multiple security flaws, was also one of the favorite tools for massively infecting users as well as for targeted attacks.
"Although it is assumed that home users are exposed to the highest risk, updating applications, which is essential for protecting against these types of attacks, is a very complex process for corporations who must coordinate the update among all workstations," explained Luis Corrons. "At the same time, all the applications used in a company must work correctly. This makes the update processes slow, which opens a window that is exploited to steal information in general and launch targeted attacks in search of confidential data."
PandaLabs predicts that other areas that will emerge in 2013 as dominant security issues are:
-- Social networks: The second most widely used technique is social engineering. Tricking users into collaborating to infect their computers and steal their data is an easy task, as there are no security applications to protect users from themselves. In this context, use of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), places where hundreds of millions of users exchange personal information, makes them the preferred hunting ground for tricking users.
Particular attention should be paid to Skype, which after replacing Messenger, could become a target for cyber-criminals.
-- Malware for mobile devices: Android has become the dominant mobile operating system. In September 2012, Google announced that it had reached 700 million Android activations. Although it is mainly used on smartphones and tablets, its flexibility and the fact that you do not have to buy a license to use it are going to result in new devices opting to use Google's operating system. Its use is going to become increasingly widespread, from televisions to all types of home appliances, which opens up a world of possible attacks as yet unknown. -- Cyber-warfare / Cyber-espionage: Throughout 2012, different types of attacks have been launched against nations. The Middle East is worth mentioning, where the conflict is also present in cyber-space. In fact, many of these attacks are not even carried out by national governments but by citizens, who feel that they should defend their nation by attacking their neighbors using any means available.
Furthermore, the governments of the world's leading nations are creating cyber commandos to prepare both defense and attack and therefore, the cyber-arms race will escalate.
-- Growth of malware: For two decades, the amount of malware has been growing dramatically. The figures are stratospheric, with tens of thousands of new malware strains appearing every day. This sustained growth seems very far from coming to an end.
Despite security forces being better prepared to combat this type of crime, they are still handicapped by the absence of borders on the Internet. A police force can only act within its jurisdiction, whereas a cyber-crook can launch an attack from country A, steal data from citizens of country B, send the stolen data to a server situated in country C and could be living in country D. This can be done in just a few clicks, whereas coordinated action of security forces across various countries could take months. For this reason, cyber-criminals are still living their own golden era.
-- Malware for Mac: Cases like Flashback, which occurred in 2012, have demonstrated that not only is Mac susceptible to malware attacks but that there are also massive infections affecting hundreds of thousands of users. Although the number of malware strains for Mac is still relatively low compared to malware for PCs, we expect it to continue rising. A growing number of users added to security flaws and lack of user awareness (due to over-confidence), mean that the attraction of this platform for cyber-crooks will continue to increase next year. -- Windows 8: Microsoft's latest operating system, along with all of its predecessors, will also suffer attacks. Cyber-criminals are not going to focus on this operating system only but they will also make sure that their creations work equally well on Windows XP to Windows 8, through Windows 7.
One of the attractions of Microsoft's new operating system is that it runs on PCs, as well as on tablets and smartphones. For this reason, if functional malware strains that allow information to be stolen regardless of the type of device used are developed, we could see a specific development of malware for Windows 8 that could take attacks to a new level.
More information at PandaLabs blog.
About PandaLabs Since 1990, PandaLabs, Panda Security's malware research laboratory, has been working to detect and classify malware in order to protect consumers and companies against new Internet threats. To do so, PandaLabs uses Collective Intelligence, a cloud-based proprietary system that leverages the knowledge gathered from Panda's user community to automatically detect, analyze and classify the more than 73,000 new malware strains that appear every day. This automated malware classification is complemented through the work of an international team with researchers specialized each in a specific type of malware (viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware and other attacks) to provide global coverage. Get more information about PandaLabs and subscribe to its blog news feed at http://www.pandalabs.com. Follow Panda on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Panda_Security and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/PandaUSA.