Unified Creeps: Cyber-crime to Rage on in '10

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2009-11-18 Print this article Print

Typically you've got to wait until at least December to begin seeing security researchers' foreboding predictions for the malware and unethical hacking landscape in the next year to come.

However, in keeping with the theory of unified cultural creep, or the increasingly invoked notion that supports the strange reason why we've begun to see Christmas sales a week or so after Halloween, experts at security market leader Symantec have already published some of their forecasts for the last year of the first decade of the latest century and millennium.

To anyone who follows security and threat trends most of these forecast items shouldn't remotely approach any form of a surprise. However, if you look back over the years of annual reports and predictions, it actually serves as an interesting and fairly accurate timeline of the realities that we've actually seen.

OK, the mobile malware thing STILL hasn't happened. But, of course, it made the cut once again this year (...and obviously will continue to do so until it becomes a reality. But will the people who were predicting it five years ago seem smart or not so much? Only time will tell.)

Anyways, there's a full range of the usual suspects involved, but there are some interesting conclusions from Symantec about how certain trends, such as attacks on users of social networks, may likely evolve.

For Symantec's full report in podcast format, click here.

But a summary of the top trends that the company is warning us about for 2010 includes:

-AV will continue to be overwhelmed: Even Symantec recognizes that it's becoming impossible to filter for malware using sigs or even heuristics. Leading researchers with the company have been talking about different forms of reference-based security for a few years, but the company says the approach will become "key" in 2010. I smell a product launch.

-Social engineering is king: Attackers don't target classes of devices or operating systems, they go directly after users and fool them into doing themselves in. That's been the way of the walk for a while now, but, predictably, Symantec contends that it's only going to become worse in '10, with new delivery techniques employing legitimate applications and smarter targeting of smaller groups of end users.

-Scareware is everywhere: Rogue AV scanners must work on someone, since they're seemingly involved in every form of threat from simple phishing to advanced botnets these days. Next year the attack pattern will continue to proliferate, with rebranded copies of free third-party antivirus software carrying added attack code becoming a more widespread tactic, the experts predict.

-Social applications make noise: In addition to more of the same attacks aimed at social networking site users, the broader availability of legitimate APIs meant for building apps that integrate with the systems will introduce new opportunities for the bad peeps, as well as the good, says Big Yellow.

-Everybody hates Windows 7: If you've been living under a rock you might have missed the news that Microsoft has launched a new OS. And people have already found vulnerabilities in it. And attackers will target it. A lot. That one I could have predicted. But look at it this way, if you're Microsoft, this used to be such an obvious problem that it was too ubiquitous to even put on these types of lists. That's actually progress!

-Fast Flux gets Faster: This hydra-like fashion of botnet control that allows for increased resiliency based on the use of changing and distributed hosts acting as C&C proxies is pretty impressive and scary. As more traditional botnets feel the squeeze, Symantec says attackers will be forced to invoke wider use of the fast flux technique in 2010. Not good.

-Making short work of Shorteners: Well, a technology whose value proposition is based on helping to obscure a URL that it's trying to send people to seemed like a good idea within the world of 140 character culture. Unfortunately, URL shorteners have already proven a very useful tool for attackers seeking to suck people into visiting their infected Web sites. In a new yet completely predictable turn, spammers and phishers will also used the services to help avoid filters in the coming year. Since we don't get enough spam as it is.

-Mac and Mobile Malware Manifestation!: Well, if they keep predicting it every year it has to happen sometime, right? I predict that someday the Earth will be a scorched barren rock being sucked into the Sun.

Quote me on it!

Follow eWeek Security Watch on Twitter at: eWeekSecWatch.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.

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