Kaspersky Lab experts have today outlined the key security trends of 2012 and presented their views on the core threats of 2013. The most notable predictions for the next year include the continued rise of targeted attacks, cyber-espionage and nation-state cyber-attacks, the evolving role of hacktivism, the development of controversial ‘legal’ surveillance tools and the increase in cybercriminal attacks targeting cloud-based services.
Targeted attacks on businesses have only become a prevalent threat within the last two years. Kaspersky Lab expects the amount of targeted attacks, with the purpose of cyber-espionage, to continue in 2013 and beyond, becoming the most significant threat for businesses. Another trend that will likely impact companies and governments is the continued rise of ‘hacktivism‘ and politically-motivated cyber-attacks.
State-sponsored cyber warfare is also expected to continue in 2013. In fact, during 2012, Kaspersky Lab discovered three new major malicious programs that were used in cyber warfare operations: Flame, Gauss and miniFlame. While Flame was the largest and most sophisticated of the cyber-espionage programs, its longevity was its most prominent characteristic. Being at least a five-year-old project, Flame was an example of a complex malicious program that could exist undetected for an extended amount of time while collecting massive amounts of data and sensitive information from its victims. Experts at Kaspersky Lab expect more countries to develop their own cyber programs for the purposes of cyber-espionage and cyber-sabotage. These attacks will affect not only government institutions, but also businesses and critical infrastructure facilities.
In 2012 an on-going debate also took place on whether or not governments should develop and use specific surveillance software to monitor suspects in criminal investigations. Kaspersky Lab predicts that 2013 will build on this issue as governments create or purchase additional monitoring tools to enhance the surveillance of individuals, which will extend beyond wiretapping phones to enabling secret access to targeted mobile devices. Government-backed surveillance tools in the cyber environment will most likely continue to evolve, as law-enforcement agencies try to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. At the same time, controversial issues about civil liberties and consumer privacy associated with the tools will also continue to be raised.
Online privacy will also become more of an issue. Development of social networks, and, unfortunately, new threats that affect both consumers and businesses have drastically changed the perception of online privacy and trust. As consumers understand that a significant portion of their personal data is handed over to online services, the question is whether or not they trust them. Such confidence has already been shaken following the wake of major password leaks from some of the most popular web services such as Dropbox and LinkedIn. The value of personal data – for both cybercriminals and legitimate businesses – is destined to grow significantly in the near future.
2012 has been the year of the explosive growth of mobile malware, with cybercriminals’ primary focus being the Android platform, as it was the most popular and widely used. In 2013 we are likely to see a new alarming trend – the use of vulnerabilities to extend ‘drive-by download’ attacks on mobile devices. This means that personal and corporate data stored on smartphones and tablets will be targeted as frequently as it is targeted on traditional computers. For the same reasons (rising popularity), new sophisticated attacks will be performed against owners of Apple devices as well.
As vulnerabilities in mobile devices become an increasing threat for users, computer application and program vulnerabilities will continue to be exploited on PCs. Kaspersky Lab named 2012 the year of Java vulnerabilities, and in 2013 Java will continue to be exploited by cybercriminals on a massive scale. However, although Java will continue to be a target for exploits, the importance of Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader as malware gateways will decrease as the latest versions include automated update systems for patching security vulnerabilities.