Cyber-criminals have no shortage of incentive to innovate, so perhaps it is not really surprising to see new technologies get wrapped up in malicious activity.
Perhaps the best example of the year is Conficker, which used the MD6 cryptographic hash function in some of its variants. At the time, MD6 was brand-new, and its use by Conficker is widely considered to be the first public implementation of MD6. Looking ahead, some researchers are expecting more of the same in 2010–except it will be HTML 5 and IPv6 starring in the role of the abused new technology.
“HTML 5 offers some increased capabilities for mashup applications to perform cross-domain communications,” said Dan Cornell, CTO of Denim Group. “This is helpful for creating functionality, but can open applications up to attack. In addition, HTML 5 allows Web developers to store more information locally via the browser–this functionality is new and relatively untested.”
HTML5 also allows Websites to register themselves as “protocol” and “content” handlers, creating situations where users might unintentionally send sensitive data to untrusted third-party sites, he said.
“As with many new technologies, Web application developers need to understand the security implications of the technologies they are implementing and use techniques such as threat modeling to identify potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities before they deploy new applications,” Cornell said.
Trend Micro had similar thoughts about IPv6, the next-generation Internet protocol designed to take the place of IPv4. In a report entitled “The Future of Threats and Threat Technologies,” Trend Micro conceded that the low IPv6 adoption rates make it unlikely that malware will adopt IPv6 in a significant way in 2010, but as users start to show interest in IPv6, that will change.
“Therefore users can expect to find some proof-of-concept elements in IPv6 to fly in 2010,” the Trend Micro researchers wrote in the report. (PDF) “Possible abuse includes new covert channels or C&C, but not so much on active targeting of IPv6 address space–at least not in the very immediate future.”
How big a factor any of this will be in the security landscape next year is right now anybody’s guess, but the predictions, as well as history, are a reminder for developers to stay on their toes.