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Security analysts at WatchGuard Technologies released their top security predictions for 2011, placing threats from voice over IP (VOIP) technologies, social media security breaches and advanced persistent threats (APTs) as the top concerns for businesses. APTs are designed to stay hidden within a victim network or host for a long period of time – typically by using strong rootkit technology, cleaning logs, and slow, quiet Command and Control channels. They apply the most advanced attack, infection and malware propagation techniques known.

“In reality, APT is just a new way to say very advanced malware attack; so this prediction has two parts,” WatchGuard analysts explained. “First, WatchGuard expects security experts to jump on the term and over-use it throughout 2011. Secondly, WatchGuard expects to see many more treacherous attacks this year that fit the APT category.”

Now that most attacks come from the Web, the company predicted one site poses the largest risk of all – Facebook. When one combines Facebook’s culture of trust, the many potential technical security issues (Web 2.0, API, etc.) and its more than 500 million users, computer attackers and social engineers have a “huge and attractive playground” from which to launch attacks. WatchGuard analysts said they believe links on Facebook will become the most common threat vector, similar to how attachments in e-mail were years ago.

WatchGuard analysts also believe governments around the world will become more involved in protecting intellectual property this year. New laws and regulations will force more organizations to implement stronger IP protection, resulting in new security technologies to help keep data and IP from being stolen or used in an unauthorized manner. “In 2011, expect to employ even better data loss prevention mechanisms than those currently available,” the report noted.

The company selected malware-as-a-service (MaaS) as the top security trend for businesses in 2011. Analysts noted over the years, as hacking has become more organized and criminally controlled, the hacker underground has started to mimic commercial markets by releasing prepackaged, black-market exploit kits. One can already buy Web attack kits, prepackaged botnets and ready-to-go malware from underground Websites and forums, the company noted.

For 2011, WatchGuard predicted that the criminal underground will take this a step further by creating a convenient “app store” for malware, which means that script kiddies will be just one click away from unleashing their own botnet.

“2011 stands to be a dynamic year for network security as criminals and hackers take threats to new levels,” said Eric Aarrestad, vice president at WatchGuard. “Given how new threats are constantly evolving, WatchGuard remains ever vigilant in staying one step ahead of these threats, which gives our customers unparalleled protection for their networks, applications and data.