Online games, social networks and high-profile events are potential targets for online attacks in 2008.
This is according to the latest Internet Security Outlook Report from CA, which is based on data compiled by the company's global security adviser researchers and 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's 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 U.S. 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 says. “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.”