Mobile attacks on the rise, says McAfee

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Mobile malware's set to rocket, according to security firm McAfee's 2012 Threat Predictions report, while the Anonymous hacking group may be on its way out.

Threats involving mobile banking and virtual currency will dominate, says McAfee, and politically-motivated attacks will also make headlines. We can look forward to industrial attacks, cyberwarfare demonstrations and hacktivist attacks targeting public figures, it says.

"Many of the threats that will become prominent in 2012 have already been looming under the radar in 2011," says Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs.

"Over the past year, the general public has become more aware of some of these risks, such as threats to critical infrastructure or the impact of hacktivism as they gain international media attention. In the meantime, we continue to see cybercriminals improving their toolkits and malware and are ready to make a significant impact in 2012."

2011 has seen more mobile malware than ever before, and McAfee says it only expects things to get worse. Techniques lifted from online banking - such as stealing from victims while they are still logged on, making transactions appear legitimate - will now be used against mobile banking users.

Virtual currencies aren't encrypted and transactions are public, making them attractive to cybercriminals. McAfee Labs expects to see this threat evolve into spam, data theft and other ways to steal money or spread malware.

Industrial attacks will continue over the next year, says McAfee, if only for blackmail or extortion. And embedded systems within cars, medical devices, GPS devices, routers, digital cameras and printers will increasingly become targets.

As for hacktivism, McAfee reckons that Anonymous must change or die.

"If the Anonymous circles of influence are unable to become organized — with clear calls for action and responsibility claims — all those labeling themselves Anonymous will eventually run the risk of becoming
marginalized," says the report.

But the company expects hackers increasingly to ally themselves with real-life demonstrators such as the Occupy movement - and leak much more information about individuals.

"For political and ideological ends, the private lives of public figures — politicians, industry leaders, judges, and law-enforcement and security officers — will be disclosed this year more than in the past," reads the report.

"Protesters will stop at nothing to obtain data from social networks or web servers to support their various operations."