Bots and rootkits among top ten security threats says McAfee

Botnets, rootkits and vulnerabilities will continue to cause concern, says McAfee

The days of big virus outbreaks like MyDoom, Melissa and SQL Slammer are gone, says Joe Telafici, director of operations for McAfee Avert Labs.

Telafici was speaking at the recent AVAR (Association of Antivirus Asia Researchers) conference, which was held in Auckland. Today’s cyber criminals don’t want to draw attention to themselves as the main motivation for cyber crime now is money, not fame, he says.

They are “clearly getting more devious”, he says, but law enforcement cooperation across borders is also getting more efficient.

Telafici’s team of around 100 security experts in 16 countries builds McAfee’s security content. But they also educate and cooperate with law enforcement.

At the end of last month, McAfee Avert Labs made ten security threat predictions for 2007. They are:

1) The use of bots, computer programs that perform automated tasks, will increase. Botnetworks will also increase, but there will be a move away from internet relay chat (IRC) towards less obtrusive instant messaging and peer-to-peer communication, says Telafici.

2) The number of rootkits on 32-bit platforms will increase, but protection and remediation capabilities will increase too. Telafici says that rootkits are becoming a de facto standard in malicious programs and that they will increase over the next couple of years.

3) Vulnerabilities will continue to cause concern, fuelled by the underground market for them. McAfee Avert Labs thinks the number of vulnerabilities will grow because of the increased use of fuzzers — automated tools and technologies that allow for large-scale testing of applications — and “bounty programmes” that reward researchers for finding vulnerabilities. McAfee is not involved in any such initiatives, says Telafici.

This year, Microsoft has already announced 140 vulnerabilities, compared with 62 in 2004 and 2005 combined, says McAfee. Also, zero-day attacks are being released soon after “Patch Tuesday” to get the most out of the vulnerability’s window of opportunity, says the company.

4) Identity theft and data loss will continue to be issues —computer theft, loss of backups and compromised information systems are at the result of these crimes. According to the US Federal Trade Commission, ten million Americans are victims of identity fraud each year, says Telafici.

5) The number of password-stealing websites will increase, using fake sign-in pages for popular online services such as eBay.

6) The volume of spam, particularly bandwidth-eating image spam, will continue to increase.

7) The popularity of video-sharing on the web makes it inevitable that hackers will target MPEG files as a way of distributing malicious code.

8) Mobile-phone attacks will become more prevalent as mobile devices become “smarter” and more connected.

9) Adware will go mainstream, following the increase in commercial Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs).

10) Parasitic malware that modifies existing files on a disk will make a comeback.

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