Computer platforms with the biggest buzz will be the biggest malware targets in 2011

There will be no shortage of computer security threats for 2011. Among the most prominent will be new threats to geolocation services, mobile devices, and Apple machines, according to researchers at Intel’s McAfee security division.

Researchers also foresee attackers targeting URL-shortening services and internet TV platforms, and an increase in politically motivated hacking. In short, wherever the internet goes, there go the malware attacks.

The predictions are contained in the 2011 Threat Predictions report by McAfee Labs. In 2011, the platforms with the biggest buzz — Google’s Android, Apple’s iPhone, Foursquare, Google TV and the Mac OS X platform — are all expected to become prime targets for cybercriminals. McAfee Labs also predicts that politically motivated attacks will be on the rise, as more groups are expected to repeat the WikiLeaks disclosure pattern.

“We’ve seen significant advancements in device and social network adoption, placing a bull’s-eye on the platforms and services users are embracing the most,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs. “These platforms and services have become very popular in a short amount of time, and we’re already seeing a significant increase in vulnerabilities, attacks and data loss.”

Here are some snapshots from the report:

Social media: URL-shortening services will be a prime target of malware since users tend to trust the short URLs from services such as Bit.ly because they are shared by the users’ friends. More than 3,000 such short-URL links are being created a minute now, opening up opportunity for lots of scams.

Geolocation services: Location services such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places can easily search, track and plot the whereabouts of friends and strangers. In just a few clicks, cybercriminals get a wealth of personal information on individuals, which in turn lets them craft a targeted attack.

Mobile devices: Threats on mobile devices are on the rise, especially among workers. As hacker attacks against mobile phones grow, more corporate data will be at risk. McAfee predicts a rapid escalation in this area.

Apple: Historically, the Mac operating system has had too small a slice of the market for hackers to target. The cybercriminals always got a bigger payoff from attacking Windows users. But Mac-targeted malware will increase as Apple’s platforms take off in both the mobile and computer markets.

TV apps: New internet TV platforms are some of the most anticipate devices of 2011. But in the rush to market, McAfee warns, the platforms aren’t yet fully protected. Apps that run on the TV could expose users to privacy or identity data losses.

Attacks will come from your friends: As social networks gain currency, attackers will try to pose as your friends to make you a victim of malware. Hackers are coming up with more ways to disguise their attacks as personal or legitimate communications.

Hacktivism: Politically motivated attacks will proliferate and sophisticated attacks will appear in 2011 as more groups try to repeat the WikiLeaks example. This so-called “hacktivism” will be carried out by people claiming to be independent of any particular government or movement, and will become more organized and strategic by incorporating social networks in the process, McAfee reports.

[image credit: ZDNet]