"2009 saw a wide range of security threats aiming at both end-users and at corporate networks," said Catalin Cosoi, BitDefender's senior anti-spam researcher. "The Conficker worm took a dramatic surge and managed to stay one of the top three global threats during 2009. Although not entirely dangerous, its spreading mechanisms and its resistance to detection may be regarded as the cornerstone of the upcoming breeds of highly destructive malware."
BitDefender's 2010 security predictions include:
- Botnet activity
Spam sent by botnets will be at the core of malware threats in 2010. We will also see some distributed denial of service attacks, as proof of concepts for the future or possible customers of the botnets. If a client wants to rent a botnet, but he is not sure of the capabilities of the network, he might want to see a demonstration of power
- Malicious applications
The majority of malicious applications are oriented towards illicit financial gain. BitDefender estimates that 2010 will bring an increased amount of malware, especially adware applications and rogue antivirus software. More complex malware, such as rootkit-based file infectors and worms relying on multiple vectors of infection (e-mail, instant messaging and peer-to-peer protocols) are also expected to increase.
- Social networking
Social networking websites are expected to become one of the most important vectors of infection in 2010. Building on their experience with these social networking sites, malware authors are expected to extend their reach with the new Google Wave as the search engine's instant messaging service gains popularity. Social networking sites will also remain targets of social networking threats. Spam and phishing attempts targeting social networking users are also expected to rise.
- Operating systems
Microsoft's newly launched operating system, Windows 7, has proved to be much safer than its predecessors. However, as users transition from XP and Vista to Windows 7, malware authors will focus on finding software vulnerabilities and security breaches in the operating system.
- Apple Mac OS X users are also urged to adopt an anti-malware suite in order to avoid infection. Apart from the usual spam and phishing attempts that are platform-independent and target any computer user connected to the Internet, Apple's transition to the Intel hardware platform will unleash new opportunities for attackers who are currently writing malware for Windows.
- Mobile operating systems
The latest version of the iPhone with 3G dramatically increased the iPhone user-base in 2009. Many iPhone users are jail-breaking the operating system in order to install third-party applications. Jail-breaking involves activation of the SSH service with a default password and root access. BitDefender expects that 2010 will bring new e-threats focusing on the rapidly growing mobile platform, especially worms and password-stealing Trojans. On the contrary, Android and Maemo users are expected to be spared. Because their market share is still small compared to Windows Mobile, Symbian and iPhone OS, malware authors will not focus their efforts on finding vulnerabilities, but rather strengthen their efforts on social engineering attacks.
- Enterprise threats
Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and the VMWare vSphere virtualization technologies have opened new opportunities for small and medium businesses. Accommodating multiple servers to a single machine with virtualization will dramatically cut down costs. During 2010, remote attackers are expected to look for vulnerabilities in software that would allow them to seize control over the hypervisor and on all virtual machines deployed on the system.
Cloud computing services are also at the height of popularity. Cloud technologies hold and process significant amounts of sensitive data whether they are used for e-mailing or for data storage and backup. BitDefender predicts that attackers will shift their focus in 2010 to these infrastructures to seize control over or limit access to cloud computing resources.
Finally, netbooks and PDAs are expected to become security risks in the corporate environment as they become more popular. Since netbooks do not come with Trusted Platform Modules or other types of hardware / software encryption and cannot be managed remotely (in order to wipe the HDD clean in case of loss/theft), sensitive information can land into the hands of cyber criminals.
"Computer users need to keep in mind that cyber criminals are constantly adapting their e-threats so they don't get caught, making them more damaging," said Cosoi. "With that being said, it is essential for home users, small businesses and enterprises alike to have a reliable security solution installed and updated on their systems."