The cybercrime landscape is always growing and changing as hackers look for new ways to make money. Last year was no different as McAfee Labs found huge growth in malicious software and activities.
For 2013, here are the areas of cybercrime where McAfee predicts we'll see growth and that we should be aware of.
Malicious app proliferation
As mobile malware grows, we expect to see malicious apps that can buy additional apps from an app store without your permission. Buying apps developed by malware authors puts money in their pockets.
We also expect to see attacks that can happen without the owner of the smartphone having to install an app, so no interaction on user's part is needed to spread the malicious app.
Mobile "tap and pay"
NFC-enabled phones are becoming more common. As users are able to make "tap and pay" purchases in more locations, they'll carry their digital wallets everywhere. That flexibility will also be a boon to thieves, unfortunately.
Thieves will use the "bump and infect" method to steal money from digital wallets in large, crowded areas such as airports, malls and theme parks.
Ransomware is quickly moving from the PC to the mobile device. Criminals hijack data on a phone or use of the phone, so you owner is faced with missing calls and losing contacts, voicemail, photos, etc., or paying a ransom; and even when ransom is paid, there's no guarantee that data access will be restored.
Regaining control of botnets
Botnets are networks of infected personal computers that are controlled by a criminal in order to carry out malicious activities — and they are one of the largest sources of spam emails. The computer's owner will have no idea that his PC is being used for this purpose.
As cooperation to shut down these botnets grows in the IT community, the criminals that control them lose money. We anticipate that hackers will find ways to regain control of their botnets once they are taken down.
Hacking services traded online
Online criminal forums have always been used by cybercriminals to buy and sell malicious services, but they still did most of their actual dealings face to face.
However, the growth of traditional e-commerce methods and the anonymity on e-commerce sites has improved. This means that with the click of a mouse, a criminal can choose a malicious service or program, use an anonymous online payment method, and receive their purchase without any negotiations or direct contact with the seller.
The ease with which these transactions can now be made does not bode well for computer security in 2013.
But there are ways that PC and mobile device users can protect their information:
Install security software on a mobile device
With the growing number of mobile threats, mobile owners need to probect their smartphones just as they do their computers. Installing security software can guard against viruses and malware and protect the device and the information on it in the case of loss or theft.
It's time for anyone still using an-easy to-remember password such as a home address or pet's name to get serious about creating strong passwords that are at least eight characters long, and that include a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Passwords should not include personal information that can be guessed by hackers.
Keep software up to date
Software updates often include fixes to security holes and other vulnerabilities so it's essential to stay up to date with the latest version of all software programs — especially security software. The PC or device user should download application updates without delay when prompted by the device.
Finally, as cybercriminals continue to unleash new attacks, it's critical to stay up-to-date on these threats and their remedies.
Robert Siciliano is an online security expert for McAfee.
Robert Siciliano is CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com. He is a nationally known speaker on the subject of identity theft.