Security Threats to Watch for in 2011

Sue Marquette Poremba
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Emerging Security Concerns in 2011

As the barriers to hacking are removed, the number of hackers will rise and the hunt will be on for the quickest route to the biggest payouts.

Last week, Kara Reeder reported on a new botnet threat, Darkness. She wrote:

According to Threat Post, researchers discovered that Darkness has been used to attack more than 100 targets, some of them being high-profile e-commerce and financial services sites.

With the introduction of Darkness, coming on the heels of a year where we saw an active Zeus botnet and first heard about Stuxnet, it isn't surprising that anti-virus and security software provider ESET sees botnets as a top security threat for 2011. In fact, Randy Abrams, director of technical education for ESET described to me his top three threat risks and why. They are:


Botnets: Botnets will continue to be a major problem, and, unless there's a drastic change in the threatscape, ESET predicts that the number of unique malicious "known" samples will be well in excess of 50 million by the end of the year.

Social Engineering: The main threat for everyone continues to be social engineering. Cyber criminals will continue to use Twitter and Facebook accounts to lure users into handing over personal and sensitive information. Most malware will continue to infect through the usual channels (e-mail, malicious URLs, forums, newsgroups) by tricking the victim into clicking on something ugly. However, it's to be expected that unpleasant surprises like the .LNK vulnerability will also turn up from time to time, possibly long after the bad guys discover them.

The Rise in Mobile Threats: As smartphones and tablets like the iPad are put to broader uses in the enterprise, they also are becoming security risks. According to research from Enterprise Strategy Group, "more than 75% of employees use their mobile devices for day-to-day productivity at nearly one-fifth of all large organizations." Due to their smaller sizes, relative to traditional notebooks, thieves have an easier task of stealing these devices. And, mobile device threats from malware surged this past quarter.


There is nothing unusual about this threat prediction list, as these are security concerns on virtually every list I've seen (and it seems like every security company has a list). And frankly, botnets and social engineering threats have been around forever-or at least since I've first been online in the early 90's. What this list says to me is that cybercriminals will continue to use tried-and-true methods, but with increasing sophistication, and we must remain vigilant.

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