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Cybercriminals Focussing on Non-Windows Systems and Mobile Platforms.

India, Jan. 28 -- In a major cybercrime turning point, scammers have begun shifting their focus away from Windows-based PCs to other operating systems and platforms, including smart phones, tablet computers, and mobile platforms in general, according to the Cisco 2010 Annual Security Report. The report also finds that 2010 was the first year in the history of the Internet that spam volume decreased, that cybercriminals are investing heavily in "money muling," and that users continue to fall prey to myriad forms of trust exploitation.

In response to the last decade of cyber-exploits targeting PC operating systems, PC platform and application vendors have shored up security in their products and taken a more aggressive approach to patching vulnerabilities. As a result, scammers are finding it harder to exploit platforms that were once their bread and butter - in particular, the Windows platform - and are looking elsewhere to make money. Just as important in driving this trend is the widespread adoption of mobile devices and applications. Third-party mobile applications in particular are emerging as a serious threat vector.

Patrick Peterson, fellow, Cisco commented, "Everyone knows the joke about the two hikers and the hungry bear in which the swifter hiker explains his footrace is not against the bear but the other hiker. The cybercriminal bears have been feasting on the "slowest hiker" Windows platform for the last decade. But with increased security in the Windows operating system and applications, the bears are looking elsewhere to satisfy their hunger. Mobile and emerging operating systems are hikers that the bears have largely ignored until now, but they are beginning to look much more appealing. These bears are also finding opportunities in the explosion in mobile-device usage, where we're seeing a growing number of exploits aimed specifically at mobile users."

Spam: 2010 marks the first year of declining spam volume in the history of the Internet. Despite this good news, 2010 saw an uptick in spam in developed economies where broadband connections are spreading, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, for example, spam volume rose almost 99 percent from 2009 to 2010. The good news is that Brazil, China and Turkey - all of which figured high on last year's list of spammed nations - showed significantly lower volumes in 2010. In particular, Turkey's spam volume dropped 87 percent. This reduction is due in part to the high-profile takedowns of botnets like Waledac and Pushdo/Cutwail, attributed largely to researcher Thorsten Holz and ISPs restricting malicious e-mail from broadband networks. In addition, authorities are taking the spam problem more seriously and are looking to take down egregious offenders.

Money Muling: As the cybercriminal economy expands and criminals gain access to even more financial credentials, there is a growing need for money mules - people recruited to set up bank accounts, or even use their own bank accounts, to help scammers "cash out" or launder money. Money muling operations are becoming more elaborate and international in scope, and Cisco security experts anticipate they will be a major focus of cybercriminal investment in 2011.

Trust Exploitation: Most cybercrime exploits hinge not only on technology but also on the all-too-human tendency to misplace trust. The Cisco Annual Security Report lists seven "deadly weaknesses" that cybercriminals exploit through social engineering scams - whether in the form of e-mails, social networking chats or phone calls. The seven weaknesses are sex appeal, greed, vanity, trust, sloth, compassion and urgency.

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Publication:The CTO Forum
Date:Jan 28, 2011
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