latest Internet Security Outlook Report issued today by CA forewarns that online gamers, social networks and high-profile events like the US presidential election and the Beijing Olympics are among the top potential targets for online attacks in 2008.

The study, based on data compiled by CA’s Global Security Advisor researchers, features Internet security predictions for 2008 and also reports on trends from 2007.
“Cyber-criminals go where opportunity lies and take advantage of any and all vulnerabilities,” says Brian Grayek, vice president of product management for CA’s Internet Security Business Unit. “While security protection is becoming better at detecting malware, online thieves are getting smarter and stealthier in the way they attack our computers.”
CA online security predictions for 2008 include:
* Bots will dominate 2008:  The number of computers infected by botnets will increase sharply in 2008. In an effort to become harder to detect, bot-herders are changing their tactics and decentralising via peer-to-peer architectures. They are increasingly using instant messaging as their main vehicle for spreading botnets.  
* Smarter malware: There are new levels of sophistication in malware. Malware will target virtualised computers, and increasing use of obfuscation techniques to hide in plain sight, including steganography and encryptions, will help criminals conceal their activities.
* Gamers under fire: Gamers already are a prized target, and stealing their account credentials continues to be a primary objective of online criminals. Gamers historically are more concerned with optimising their PCs for high performance rather than for tight security. In 2008, virtual assets will equal real world money for Internet criminals.
* Social networking sites in the crosshairs: Social networking sites will become increasingly popular and, as a result, more vulnerable. The large number of aggregated potential victims and relatively small concern for computer security make these sites a windfall for cyber thieves.
* Key dates for opportunity: The US presidential election and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing offer high-profile opportunities for destructive attacks and corruption or outright theft of information.
* Web 2.0 services and sites will come under targeted attacks: While it is relatively easy to implement Web 2.0 services, it can be quite challenging to configure them to be totally secure. Therefore, many Internet sites using these services are easy targets with little outward indication that a site is compromised.
* Windows Vista at risk: As businesses and consumers buy new computers, Vista’s market share will grow. Although it is designed as Microsoft’s most secure operating system, 20 vulnerabilities were reported in 2007, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. As more people use it, the more attackers will target it.
* Mobile devices will still be safe: Mobile devices are still safe, despite rumors of mobile malware. Smartphones and other mobile devices will not be a real opportunity for criminals in 2008. Proof-of-concept malware for mobile devices has not yet translated into any meaningful attacks. The only significant mobile vulnerability reported in 2007 was to the Apple iPhone.
“The digital footprints that are collected and stored whenever we use the Internet are incredibly valuable to marketers and to online criminals,” Grayek adds. “We’ve seen malware evolve from a cottage industry to a full-fledged fraud business.
"Shockingly, it is now operating with business practices and development similar to legitimate software organisations. Our attitude about protecting our Internet privacy and the subsequent actions we take – whether at work or at play – can dramatically alter our online safety.”
CA researchers tracked the following trends in 2007:
* Malware volumes grew by 16 times in October versus January 2007.
* For the first time, malicious spyware surpassed trojans as the most prevalent form of malware. In 2007, 56% of the total malware seen was malicious spyware, 32% were trojans, 9% were worms, and 2% were viruses.
* Adware, trojans and downloaders were the most common types of spyware.
* The most widespread worms this year were simple network and removable drive worms. Some worms cripple computers as they go. Others worms drop additional malware or open the compromised computers to backdoor control by a malicious attacker.
* Rogue – or fake – security software has been an ongoing problem, and it's indicative of the rising tide of misleading applications. Rogue security software made up 6% of the total spyware volume in 2007. Rogue security software is typically distributed via online ads for free anti-spyware software.
* Attack methods converged and blended threats with multiple components are now the norm.
* More than 90% of email is spam, and more than 80% of spam contains links to malicious sites or malware.
* The quality of spam has improved and is no longer obviously riddled with typos. It is also laden with attachments—images, PDFs, documents, spreadsheets or videos—that have malware or link to malicious sites.
* Malware is an international issue. Much of the criminal activity originates in Eastern Europe and Asia and is targeted at nations where there are large populations of Internet users. Nearly 40% of spam was directed towards the US. Australia, the UK, France and Germany were also targeted. Malware is an emerging issue in Latin America, South Korea, and China.