McAfee predicts more high-profile, targeted attacks in 2012

Summary:Other major threat predictions include new hacktivist groups, spam exploiting virtual currency and digital wallets, the circulation of fake rogue certificates, and the potential for a growing "cyberwar" between governments.

Targeted attacks towards mobile devices and centers of industry are high on the list of priorities for hackers, according to McAfee's 2012 Threat Predictions report, published today.

In 2011, most of the hacking breaches were targeted towards financial centers and governmental offices as well as global corporations. While some of these attacks have trickled down to affect customers of these agencies, many of whom can be considered innocent bystanders, things are about to get a whole lot more serious for ordinary citizens next year, according to McAfee.

Specifically, many utility systems (i.e. water, electricity, oil and gas) don’t have stringent security practices. McAfee predicts that cyber criminals will take advantage of this gap in 2012, possibly with blackmail or extortion included.

McAfee's predictions fall in line with Cisco's 2012 predictions, which has repeatedly issued reports attesting that most cyber criminals are dropping producing mass spam in favor of more targeted attacks.

McAfee Labs senior vice president Vincent Weafer concurred in the report that many of the budding threats in 2011 will become more prominent in 2012:

Over the past year, the general public has become more aware of some of these risks, such as threats to critical infrastructure or the impact of hacktivism as they gain international media attention. In the meantime we continue to see cybercriminals improving their toolkits and malware and are ready to make a significant impact in 2012.

Other major threat predictions include new hacktivist groups, spam exploiting virtual currency and digital wallets, the circulation of fake rogue certificates, and even cyber attacks against critical infrastructure between military and government organizations worldwide.

On the mobile front, there has already been a lot of talk about how open source mobile operating systems -- especially Android -- have too many security holes (thus, opportunities for hackers).

Mobile hacking and spam is really only in its infancy stages -- even though 2011 has seen the largest levels in mobile malware history.

Nevertheless, McAfee predicts that cyber criminals will perfect these techniques in 2012 with more efficient mobile banking attacks, in particular, giving up on the old PC browser route.


Topics: Banking


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider,, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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