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Sophos Security Threat Report 2012

27 January 2012

Sophos published a detailed 2012 security assessment of the threat landscape - from online hacking and threats to mobile malware, cloud computing and social network security, as well as IT security trends for this coming year.

Year in review: Under attack

2011 was characterized by a rise in cybercrime on high profile companies and agencies. The availability of commercial tools like the increasingly popular Blackhole kit designed by and for cybercriminals made mass generation of new malicious code campaigns and exploits trivial and scalable.

Hype over hacktivism

The emergence of LulzSec and Anonymous marked a shift from hacking for financial gain to hacking as a form of protest. Hacktivists caused chaos by leaking documents and attacking websites of high-profile organizations and even defense contractors. LulzSec dominated headlines in the first half of the year with attacks on Sony, PBS, the U.S. Senate, the CIA, FBI affiliate InfraGard and others, and then disbanded after 50 days.

In June, New Scotland Yard arrested a 19-year-old suspected LulzSec member in the UK. Law enforcement in the UK and U.S. have arrested several other suspects. Turkish police detained 32 alleged members of Anonymous in June. And in July dozens more people were investigated for Anonymous connections in Italy and Switzerland.

Data Theft and Loss

Data breaches are constantly in the news—in fact, since 2005 security breaches have compromised more than 500 million records in the US alone. However the lost data due to human error or negligence is just as much of a threat.

Risks arise when personal information is leaked, incorrectly discarded or falls into the wrong hands. Data can leave your network in many ways, including through unprotected servers, desktop PC, laptops, mobile devices and emails.

Risky business

Increasingly, corporate users weren't just at home or at work, but somewhere else on the "everywhere network." Employees accessed sensitive corporate information from their home computers, smartphones and tablets. Moreover, corporate-issued mobile devices increased risk, as did the rise of cloud services and the use of social media.

Changing web threats and drive-by downloads

Cybercriminals constantly launched attacks designed to penetrate digital defenses and steal sensitive data. Almost no online portal proved immune from threat or harm. SophosLabs identifies an average of 30,000 newly-infected web pages each day. More than 80% of these web pages are on innocent web servers, which have been hacked by cybercriminals to make them part of the problem.

The emergence of Mac malware

Microsoft Windows may be the most attacked OS, but the primary vectors for hacking Windows have been through PDF or Flash. In 2011, the emergence of malware for the Mac upstaged Windows malware. There's no doubt that the Windows malware problem is much larger than the Mac threat, but the events of 2011 show Mac users that the malware threat is genuine.

Top trends

There are many factors that will impact the IT security landscape this year and into the future. These include new attacks using social media platforms and integrated apps, more targeted attacks on non-Windows platforms, and mobile payment technologies under threat.

Read the full Sophos report here:

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