Top 5 CyberThreats for 2012 (and how to avoid them)

Deborah Salmi 27 Dec 2011

Top 5 CyberThreats for 2012 (and how to avoid them)

In a few days, the world will ring in the New Year with renewed hope for a bright future. Predictions are being made about what 2012 will bring, and unfortunately instead of focusing on the positive, many of them are bleak. One that stands out is the prediction that the world will cease to exist on December 21, 2012 (according to the Mayan Long Calendar.) Thankfully, that one has been debunked - but we'll see... ;-)

Here at AVAST, we are confident that we'll have another great year protecting millions of happy internet surfers from all the nasties out there, but here are some educated predictions about what CyberThreats 2012 has in store for us, and how you can stay protected.

1. Mobile security

While computer networks remain the traditional targets for cyberattacks, the growing usage of mobile devices for seeking information and everyday financial transactions is driving an increase in cybercrime. Financial applications like digital wallets and pocket ATMs are targets, as are QR codes, those square, barcode-like images that you scan with your phone’s camera. Hackers can redirect you towards a website that contains viruses or other malicious content with the intent to steal sensitive data, like credit card or bank account information, track your location, or even send SMS messages to premium rate numbers.

Mobile applications can be risky business too. Earlier this year, Google removed 60 applications carrying malicious software from its Android Market. Some of the malware revealed private information to a third party, replicated to other devices, destroyed user data or even impersonated the device owner.

What can you do?

Protect your smart phone from cyberattacks and theft with avast! Free Mobile Security for Android phones. Our newest free product combines antivirus, anti-theft and firewall components to stop hackers. Like our avast! desktop security products, the avast! Web Shield for Android scans each URL that loads and warns you if the browser loads a malware-infected URL. You also get on-demand scans of all your installed apps and memory card content, as well as on-access scans of apps when you first run them.

2. Social media

The free sharing of personal information via Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc., will continue to contribute to personal cyberthreats and those targeted to companies. You can expect to see more viral threats which can infect everyone on a user's friends list. A profile or comment on a social media platform gives smooth-talking scammers something personal to work with in their social engineering schemes designed to steal or delete users' personal information. A wayward comment from an unthinking employee can reveal corporate information not meant to be exposed which can lead to data theft and security breaches.

What can you do?

As Rick from TV’s Pawn Stars says, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I don’t trust anybody.” Use caution when clicking a link to another page or running an online application, even if it comes from someone you know. Many applications passed around social networking sites require you to share your information when you use them. Attackers use these sites to distribute their malware.

3. Malware attacks

Zero-day malware (malicious software) and well-planned attacks will continue to increase from a rise in 2011. Experts predict that attackers will target devices on networks like printers and routers as well as more traditional targets. Small business owners and home users especially need to protect their environments against malware and the tactics of organized cybergangs that are increasingly used today.

What can you do?

Make sure you desktop security products are running and up-to-date. The avast! Virus Lab receives over 50,000 virus samples a day that are analyzed, confirmed, and sent to you in the latest virus definitions. The friendly voice that says, “avast! virus database has been updated” confirms that this is happening.

Small businesses shouldn’t skimp on security. Avast! Business Protection security solutions are designed for companies with more than 5 PCs that want to protect their business data and online communications.

4. Phishing attacks

Phishing will continue, especially with the increased use of smart phones for mobile email. The most common attacks come in the form of emails that appear to come from legitimate organizations, banks or companies that fool the reader into opening a link and entering sensitive information.

What can you do?

Common sense is the best precaution against phishing. Do not give sensitive information to anyone—on the phone, in person or through email. If you believe the request is legitimate, or you need to update your personal information for any organization, like your bank, access their website by typing its web address directly into your browser.

Make sure you desktop security products are running and up-to-date. All avast! desktop security products have the avast! Mail Shield which scans all incoming and outgoing email and attachments for malware. For the highest level of home protection, avast! Internet Security has a comprehensive spam and phishing filter, which analyses all incoming email based on various criteria to determine whether it is legitimate.

5. Clickjacking

When a website is clickjacked, unsuspecting users are tricked into clicking on a hidden page through a concealed link on an innocent website. The user then unknowingly reveals confidential information, or the cybercrook can take control of the user's computer. In 2011, we saw several well-documented cases of clickjacking, the most notable being a flaw in Adobe Flash which allowed cybercrooks to activate computer microphones and webcams to spy. Facebook often falls prey to clickjacking scams like the case of Justin Beiber images edited into pornographic images. Expect to see an increase of this malicious behavior over 2012.

What can you do?

Ensure that your browser, operating system and software have the latest updates and security patches. Browser and software companies are continually updating their products against vulnerabilities that allow clickjackers to operate. Use avast! WebRep, which is information about the content and security of websites received from the global avast! user community. The avast! WebRep is optionally installed during the installation of avast! antivirus. You can check to see if it’s activated by opening the avast! interface, then in the "Additional Protection" tab, select WebRep and then click "Install."

Other security issues to be mindful of

Wireless Security Issues

WiFi has grown in popularity, and employs strong authentication and encryption technology to protect networks, but at the same time, attackers are becoming more sophisticated. Significant crimes in the past few years have resulted in the theft of tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers and other sensitive information.

Cloud Computing Issues

Cloud computing providers have lots of guarantees to make – they not only have to ensure that their infrastructure is secure, but also ensure that their client’s data will remain available even if the company goes belly-up, for example. On the other hand, clients have to make sure that proper security measures to protect their information has been taken.

The internet (and now mobile devices) will continue to suffer from potential threats, but with proper steps, you will remain protected. Avast! security products go a long way to keeping your data and devices secure, but you can help by using common sense and keeping your software up-to-date.

We thank you for trusting AVAST this past year, and look forward to serving you in 2012.

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