Lavasoft Malware Labs Releases 2010 Internet Security Trends

Gothenburg, Sweden
(December 9, 2009)
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Well-known anti-spyware pioneer Lavasoft today announced its list of security predictions for 2010, anticipating the top threats that Internet users should be aware of this coming year as cyber criminals adapt their tactics, finding new ways to con people while they use the Internet.

“Online criminals have been busy in 2009. Comparing the third quarter of 2009 to the same time last year, we’ve seen a 477 percent increase in the amount of malware added to Ad-Aware’s threat database,” says Andrew Browne, head of Malware Labs at Lavasoft.

Expectations for 2010 include not only an increase in malicious Internet attacks, but the online attackers will bolster their tactics using new twists on traditional methods – as well as focusing on newly emerging platforms – according to Lavasoft Malware Labs.

“We expect that traditionally successful and lucrative modes of attack on PCs, such as rogue threats and exploiting application vulnerabilities for programs people use on a daily basis, will see enhanced attacks using more subtle and sophisticated methods. At the same time, emerging operating systems and popular platforms, like smartphones, will likely attract increasing attacks – the more popular the platform becomes, the greater the incentive to attack,” Browne says.

Lavasoft Malware Labs’ analysts anticipate that the following five threat trends will dominate the security landscape in 2010:

1. Malware attacks on Windows 7. With the release of their latest operating system, Microsoft aims to replace Windows XP as the operating system of choice. As users move to Windows 7, malware authors will shift their attention to find ways to exploit the new operating system with targeted attacks.

2. Application vulnerability exploits. Should Windows 7 prove to be more secure – in other words, more difficult for malware authors to exploit – exploiting application vulnerabilities, such as web browser vulnerabilities, will be the next best thing. To compound this, while users have begun to understand the importance of applying operating system patches, they are less aware of the need to apply security updates to applications; patches fixing application vulnerabilities are typically slow to appear, and it’s not always apparent to the user that an update is available and that action needs to be taken – making it an easier malware target.

3. Scareware and rogue (fake) security products. Rogue security software, also known as scareware, take the form of legitimate-looking anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware products and appear to be beneficial from a security perspective; in reality, they provide little or no protection, generate misleading alerts, or attempt to lure users into fraudulent transactions. The money made from this malware model ensures that cyber criminals will not abandon this profitable endeavor. If anything, expect that these attacks will become more stealthy and complex.

4. Compromising non-Windows platforms. Due to increasing discontent with Windows, PC users are experimenting with other operating systems. Ubuntu is one operating system of choice for users new to Linux. Although the quantity of users is limited compared to Windows users, if the attack surface becomes broad enough on a non-Windows operating system, malware writers will investigate ways to compromise those systems.

5. Mobile malware. Smartphones are becoming more ubiquitous and, as more services involving financial transactions are made available to handsets, exploits that leverage vulnerabilities on smartphone operating systems are sure to be targets for cyber criminals. While smartphone security threats have been monitored by malware researchers for some time, recent attacks have brought the issue into focus, stressing the need for additional security. Without a doubt, this is a threat venue to watch in 2010.

To stay safe in 2010, Lavasoft recommends that users secure their computers with updated security software and stresses the need to stay aware and cautious of the types of threats they may encounter online. Lavasoft offers educational resources for computer users including frequent security updates on the Malware Labs’ blog, The Rogue Gallery online database of known scareware programs, and the Lavasoft News monthly security newsletter.

More information on Lavasoft’s security solutions as well as online protection tips are available at www.lavasoft.com.