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Security Report Predicts Cloud Computing Attacks in 2010

M83 releases Predictions 2010, a report on its expectations for Web and messaging-based threats for the coming year

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M86 Security, a leading global provider of Web and messaging security products, released Predictions 2010, a report on its expectations for Web and messaging-based threats for the coming year. The report is based on M86 Security Lab’s extensive research into the current trends in threats over the past year and its views on the major vulnerabilities facing organizations. The report highlights the increasing sophistication of traditional threats such as botnets, scareware, compromised legitimate Web sites and blended threats. However, it also projects what the company sees are new threat vectors coming from open API’s in Web 2.0 applications, the increased use of shortened URLs and the advent of non-Latin based domain names.

On the heels of a year filled with widespread exploits, including PushDo and Zbot trojans that have been reported on by M86 Security Labs, security professionals should apply lessons learned and brace themselves to combat an increase in the volume of attacks and new innovations in 2010. Specific 2010 security predictions from M86 Labs are as follows:

  • Botnets Grow in Sophistication: Botnets continue to be a major problem, driving the majority of spam output and mass Web site attacks. Botnets have moved away from traditional IRC-based command and control, in favor of HTTP or other custom protocols, utilizing Twitter, Google and Facebook.
  • Continued Rise of Scareware: Scareware is a traditional tactic that grew popular in the second half of 2009 because of its effectiveness. Consumers are prompted to download malicious software through convincingly crafted anti-malware landing pages. In 2010, these attacks should escalate, as the look and feel of scareware pages get updated and criminals find new ways to reach users.
  • Poisoning Search Engine Results: A growing trend is the use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques to drive users to Web pages hosting malicious code. Also known as SEO poisoning, the technique aims to elevate malicious landing pages in search engine results rankings to ensure a steady supply of victims. The technique is commonly paired with scareware to capitalize on users' trust in search engines.
  • Evolution of Web Site Infections: The standard attack vector for cybercriminals is to compromise legitimate Web sites to spread malware. In 2010, the majority of malicious behavior will reside on legitimate Web sites that have been compromised by various scripts and worms.
  • Setting Sights on SaaS and Cloud Services: Cloud computing and SaaS have exploded in popularity during 2009, leading to a vast increase in service offerings. As a result, more and more corporate data is being stored outside of the network, making it difficult for IT administrators to have direct control over the data. In 2010, cybercriminals will target the larger cloud-based providers and attacks will increase.
  • Exploiting Third Party Applications: Cybercriminals commonly exploit highly deployed third party applications, such as Adobe Flash and Acrobat Reader. The ability to embed one file type in another will result in more complex attacks gaining popularity in 2010, due to the ability to evade detection mechanisms.
  • International Domain Name Abuse: In 2009, ICANN approved the registration of Internationalized Domain Names, enabling the use of non-Latin characters in domain names. As a result, phishing attacks should rise, as cybercriminals can register phony Web sites with URLs that are nearly indistinguishable from legitimate ones.
  • Attacking Application Programming Interfaces: Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are extending their services for third party development through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs). There is an implicit level of trust provided through the use of APIs, granting access to user profiles and data, so the threats that target them are likely to increase in 2010.
  • URL Shortening Services Hide Nefarious Means: The popularity of Twitter and link sharing has given rise to URL shortening services that reduce the number of characters needed to parse a link. However, these services enable cybercriminals to spread spam and malware by obfuscating the destination of posted links.

“Looking back at some successes in 2009, the security industry was successful in disabling the Mega-D botnet and eliminating significant spam hosting and service providers,” said Bradley Anstis, vice president of technical strategy, M86 Security. “However, the volume of spam and Web requests continues to grow and eclipses the levels seen before these takedowns. The first step in preventing serious Web abuse and widespread infection through the Web and other means is awareness of the threats. That is why M86 Security Labs is proud to share insight culled from our ongoing research in the Predictions 2010 report.”

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