Consumer, Consumer Threat Notices

McAfee’s 2013 Consumer Threat Predictions

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By on Dec 27, 2012

Here’s a sneak peek at the threats that could affect devices in the year ahead — Cybercrime is constantly evolving as cybercriminals look for new avenues of attack, and fresh angles on old tricks that have worked in the past. That’s why McAfee Labs™ is always on the lookout for new threats, performing in-depth research, and looking at the trends in technology.

This year was no different. The Labs team collected an enormous amount of data on malware (over 75 million signatures) and vulnerabilities to help customers protect against them. This information also gave them the ability to look ahead at evolving threats that could become prevalent in 2013.

So, what’s in store for us? Increased mobile threats are certainly on the horizon.  This is perhaps no surprise given the explosion of mobile devices, and mobile malware, that the team has seen in the last couple of years. Also on the list are innovative ways in which cybercriminals plan to continue profiting from old scams while working on new scams to dupe victims.

Get ready, because here are our threat predictions for the year ahead:

1)    “Ransomware” resurges and takes on mobile devices

Ransomware is a type of malware that allows cybercriminals to lock your computer from a remote location, and demand payment in order for you to regain access to your files and programs. In fact, McAfee Labs saw a 43% increase in ransomware samples in the last quarter[1], making it one of the fastest growing areas of cybercrime. As users become more reliant on their devices to perform business and financial transactions, we expect this threat to move from computers to mobile devices. And, we know that attackers have already developed mobile ransomware.

What’s more, mobile ransomware could give attackers other frightening possibilities, besides hijacking users’ ability to communicate and access data. For example, they could threaten to distribute recorded phone calls and pictures saved on the device if the user refuses to pay a ransom.

2)    Mobile malware goes on a shopping spree

Mobile malware has been on the rise, doubling from the second quarter of 2012 to the third quarter[2], and much of the threat came from malicious applications that mobile users downloaded from unofficial app stores.

Well, now the cybercrooks are moving in a new direction that doesn’t require users to download anything. The malware writers are exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile phones to deliver programs that can buys apps in stealth shopping sprees! The apps they buy have been developed by the malware authors, putting money straight into their own pockets.

3)    Mobile “tap and pay” worms “bump and infect”

A growing number of phones are enabled with a technology that allows users to simply “tap and pay,” called near-field communications (NFC), or make purchases using close-range wireless communications. This means that your smartphones are becoming virtual wallets, attracting virtual criminals. McAfee Labs predicts that malware writers will create mobile worms with NFC capabilities that can spread using that “bump and infect” method, as well as steal money from victims’ accounts.

4)    Botnets phone home

Botnets are networks of infected computers, and they’ve been around for a while. In fact, they are one of the largest sources of spam emails. Attackers can make your computer part of a botnet  (a “bot”) by infecting it with malware, and using its resources to launch attacks on other computers, or send out spam, all without your knowledge.

Unfortunately for the “botmasters” who run these networks, international cooperation in policing spam, malware and other illegal activities has led to a crackdown on some of the largest bot networks. In 2013 we expect these botmasters to retaliate and protect their income by implementing fail-safes that will allow them to regain control of a botnet after it has been taken down.

5)    Online marketplaces offer “click” to hack services

Up until recently, cybercriminals used to wheel and deal on public forums, where they would sell malware and hacking services, but this proved a little too risky. After all, they could be dealing with an undercover agent and not even know it. So, they recently began selling their wares on e-commerce sites, where buyers can select a piece of malware or hacking service with the click of the mouse. This provides the cybercrooks more security and anonymity.

While we don’t know for sure whether these particular attacks will thrive in the year ahead, we do know that there are a large variety of threats that can put your devices and information at risk, so it’s best to take proactive measures to protect yourself.  Follow these security resolutions for 2013 to stay a step ahead of the bad guys.

2013 Security Resolutions:

1) Install security software on all your devices including mobile—With the growing amount of mobile threats that we’re seeing, you want to make sure that your smartphone and tablet are protected, just like your computer. McAfee makes this easy with McAfee All Access, a single software solution to protect all of your devices. It includes McAfee Mobile Security, which protects tablet and smartphones from viruses and malware, as well as protects your devices and information in the case of loss or theft.

2) Strengthen and regularly change your passwords—If you’re still using easy to remember passwords that include your home address and pet’s name, it’s time to get serious about creating strong passwords that are at least eight characters long, and a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Don’t include any personal information that can be guessed by hackers.  Password management software can also help you easily keep track of your passwords and ensures they are secure.  McAfee offers this functionality, called SafeKey, in McAfee All Access.

3) Make sure that all of your software is up-to-date—Software updates often include fixes to security holes and other vulnerabilities so you want to make sure that you have the latest version of all your software programs, especially security software.

4) Check your bank statements and mobile charges regularly—This way, you can discover and report any suspicious charges.

Finally, as cybercriminals continue developing new attacks, realize that you need to stay up-to-date on the latest threats and how to protect yourself. For the latest security news, check out: https://blogs.mcafee.com/category/consumer and https://blogs.mcafee.com/category/mcafee-labs



[1] McAfee Threats Report: Third Quarter 2012

[2] McAfee Threats Report: Third Quarter 2012


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