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Security specialist McAfee, Inc. unveiled its 2011 Threat Predictions
report, outlining the top threats that researchers at McAfee Labs
foresee for the coming year. The list comprises platforms and services
including Google’s Android, Apple’s iPhone, foursquare, Google TV and
the Mac OS X platform, which are all expected to become major targets
for cybercriminals. McAfee Labs also predicted that politically
motivated attacks would be on the rise, as more groups are expected to
repeat the WikiLeaks paradigm.

Of the social media sites that will be most riddled with cybercriminal
activity, McAfee Labs said it expects those with URL-shortening
services will be at the forefront. The use of abbreviated URLs on sites
like Twitter makes it easy for cybercriminals to mask and direct users
to malicious websites, and with more than 3,000 shortened URLs per
minute being generated, McAfee Labs analysts said they expect to see a
growing number used for spam, scamming and other malicious purposes.

“We’ve seen significant advancements in device and social network
adoption, placing a bulls-eye on the platforms and services users are
embracing the most,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of
McAfee Labs. “These platforms and services have become very popular in
a short amount of time, and we’re already seeing a significant increase
in vulnerabilities, attacks and data loss.”

Botnets continue to use a seemingly infinite supply of stolen computing
power and bandwidth around the globe. Following a number of successful
botnet takedowns, including Mariposa, Bredolab and specific Zeus
botnets, botnet controllers must adjust to the increasing pressure
cybersecurity professionals are placing on them. McAfee Labs predicted
that the recent merger of Zeus with SpyEye will produce more
sophisticated bots due to improvements in bypassing security mechanisms
and law enforcement monitoring. Additionally, McAfee analysts said they
expect to see a significant botnet activity in the adoption of
data-gathering and data-removal functionality, rather than the common
use of sending spam.

The report noted that threats on mobile devices have so far been few
and far between, as “jailbreaking” on the iPhone and the arrival of
Zeus were the primary mobile threats in 2010. “With the widespread
adoption of mobile devices in business environments, combined with
historically fragile cellular infrastructure and slow strides toward
encryption, McAfee Labs predicts that 2011 will bring a rapid
escalation of attacks and threats to mobile devices, putting user and
corporate data at very high risk,” the report said.