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Virtualization and Cloud Computing Will Widen Cybercrime

Cybercriminals will either be manipulating the connection to the cloud, or attacking the data center and cloud itself

Security on Cloud Expo

Using news headlines and the latest technological trends, cybercriminals are brilliantly agile at exploiting whatever is trendy for cash and profit.

Now, the growing popularity of cloud computing and virtualization among companies is likely to catch the attention of criminals scheming for the next hot cyber-swindle.

According to the Trend Micro 2010 Future Threat Report, cloud computing and virtualization -- while offering significant benefits and cost-savings -- move servers outside the traditional security perimeter and expand the playing field for cybercriminals.

The industry already witnessed Danger/Sidekick's cloud-based server failure that caused major data outages in November 2009, highlighting cloud-computing risks that cybercriminals will likely abuse.

Trend Micro believes cybercriminals will either be manipulating the connection to the cloud, or attacking the data center and cloud itself.

The Internet infrastructure is changing, opening more opportunities for cybercrime
The "next-generation" protocol designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force, Internet Protocol v. 6, is still in the experimentation stages of replacing the current IPv4, now 20 years old. As users start to explore IPv6, so will cybercriminals, and we can expect to see proof-of-concept elements in IPv6 start to materialize in the upcoming new year. Possible avenues for abuse include new covert channels or C&C. But don't expect active targeting of IPv6 address space--at least not in the very immediate future.

Domain names are becoming more internationalized and the introduction of regional top-level domains (Russian, Chinese, and Arabic characters) will create new opportunities to launch age-old attacks through look-alike domains for phishing - using Cyrillic characters in place of similar looking Latin characters. Trend Micro predicts this will lead to reputation problems and abuse that will challenge security companies.

Social media and social networks will be used by cybercriminals to enter the users' "circle of trust"
Social engineering will continue to play a big role in the propagation of threats. But given the increasing saturation of social media with content intended to be shared via online social interactions, cybercriminals will definitely try to penetrate and compromise popular communities more than ever in 2010.

Social networks are also ripe venues for stealing personally identifiable information (PII). The quality and quantity of data posted openly by most trusting users on their profile pages, combined with interaction clues, are more than enough for cybercriminals to stage identity thefts and targeted social engineering attacks. The situation will worsen in 2010, with high-profile personalities suffering from online impersonators or stolen bank accounts.

The extinction of global outbreaks, and the growth of localized, targeted attacks
The threat landscape has shifted and we are no longer seeing global outbreaks like Slammer or CodeRed. Even the much covered Conficker incident of 2008 and early 2009 was not a global outbreak by its true definition; rather it was a carefully orchestrated and architected attack. Moving forward, localized and targeted attacks are expected to grow in their number and sophistication.

More key forecasts for 2010 and beyond: 

  • It's all about money, so cybercrime will not go away.
  • Windows 7 will have an impact since it is less secure than Vista in the default configuration.
  • Risk mitigation is not as viable an option anymore-even with alternative Browsers /alternative operating systems.
  • Malware is changing its shape - every few hours.
  • Drive-by infections are the norm - one Web visit is enough to get infected.
  • New attack vectors will arise for virtualized/cloud environments.
  • Bots can't be stopped anymore, and will be around forever.
  • Company/Social networks will continue to be shaken by data breaches.

More Stories By Yeshim Deniz

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