New malware could steal your habits

Computer scientists predict a new type of malware that will tap into your social network to figure out your behavior. Enter the lifestyle virus.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Computer scientists predict that a new type of malware might be made to infect your social network. It will be invasive, as it will figure out who you connect with most in your digital circle of friends.

Good luck trying to detect this type of intrusion.

That's what worries researchers at Ben Gurion University most about the malware. The computer scientists have coined this "stealing reality." It would keep track of the people you like connecting with most in your social network.

Companies already try to figure out our online behavior, so they can recommend products you'd probably like. So it's reasonable to think that malware developers would also try to use some of the same techniques in the future.

If viruses traditionally spread through emails and attachments or through hacked websites, then it makes sense that the next generation malware would go after someone's social network.

What better way to get an email of someone who is well connected?

Social networks have already been shown to be a good predictor of the spread of infectious diseases.

The hackers would be hitting at the heart of our privacy by picking up intimate details about our interactions online. The infection would spread slowly, so it would stay under the radar of most antivirus programs.

Technology Review reports:

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this new kind of theft is its potential impact. If malware steals your credit card details or online banking passwords, you can easily change them and this limits the damage.

But if a malicious attacker steals your behavioral patterns, there's almost nothing you can do. You can't change your network of friends or family, for example.

I wonder how this will go down with the already touch subject of Facebook privacy.

Plus, there's another looming threat that might penetrate smartphones. Soon, a mobile infection caused by a rootkit infection could secretly take over your phone's operating system.

So you might think you're calling the bank, but the call might be diverted to a criminal.

Photo: University of California - San Diego

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards