IT Security Trends From 2012

Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2012: The overall statistics for 2012” offers up some very interesting data. Online security threats have evolved, and some cherished myths have been shot to pieces. In particular, 2012 was a big year for attacks on Android devices and Macs.

Mobile Malware – Mostly Android

The report says “99% of all the mobile malware we detected every month was designed for Android.” Each month of 2012 saw thousands of new pieces of Android malware. The main type of Android malware was the SMS Trojan – malware hidden in some app you chose to download. The SMS Trojan quietly subscribes you to a premium-rate number, racking up charges for you and profits for the spammer. Android devices were also subject to adware, like software that redirects your browser. Androids were also attacked by malware that acquired root-level access to your Android’s operating system.

Kaspersky also reported a huge increase in spyware aimed at mobile devices, for tracking the phone’s location and activity, and for transmitting data without the user’s knowledge. They mentioned FinSpy as an example.

Macs – Debunking the Myths

The Kaspersky report says “2012 saw the comprehensive debunking of every myth about the security of Mac environments.” Macs were subject to botnets (especially Flashfake), DNS poisoning, and fake anti-virus software that extorts money from you to handle “detected” viruses.

Vulnerable Apps

Which apps were the most targeted? Java vulnerabilities were the big winner (or actually the big loser). Kaspersky reports that attacks on Java accounted for 50% of all attempts to exploit vulnerable apps. In other words, Java was attacked as much as all other apps combined, and it was attacked on Macs as well as PCs. As of last week, the Department of Homeland Security is still warning people to disable Java entirely.

In second place, with 28% of the attacks, was Adobe Reader. Kaspersky notes that Adobe has taken many steps to tighten up security in Adobe Reader.

Guess what got only 3% of the attacks: “Windows components and Internet Explorer.” Yep, only 3% of the attacks were specifically related to Microsoft. There goes another security myth.

What’s Next?

While attacks on mobile devices rise, because increased usage and lower prices have outpaced improvements in mobile security, my prediction is that the next big growth area for malware will be “connected” devices that didn’t used to be connected.

Examples include telehealth technology, like at-home monitoring of health. Timely, accurate data is a great thing for health care, but the newfound connectivity for protected health information opens new vistas for security problems.

Another example is increasing connectivity for your car, which leads to opportunities for malware in your car.

Iran hacked a GPS signal to capture a U.S. drone. Fictionally, an episode of the Monk TV series (“Mr. Monk Goes to the Ballgame,” 2003) featured a victim who drove to his attacker because his car’s GPS unit had been hacked – fictional, of course, but not inconceivable.

Now that every phone is a camera, there are new risks for spyware using your phone’s camera to see where you are.

Where there’s software and connectivity, there’s malware.

The coolness factor for new areas of connectivity pushes us down those paths faster than we’re securing them. Security that’s baked in from the start is a lot easier to add than security that’s strapped on later, but technology buyers want the latest features, and technology purveyors don’t want to be left behind.

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