Top 5 cyber security threats IT will face in 2013

Security vendor Symantec released its top five cyber security threats for 2013 – and if the company’s to be believed, IT admins are going to have their hands full. 

According to Symantec’s in-house security gurus, a whole new set of cyber security threats will gather steam in 2013, forcing organizations (and individuals) to be on guard at all times.

So now is as good a time as ever to find and plug the holes in your network security so you can successfully fend off these top five cyber security threats in the coming year:

1. Cyber conflict

Cyber attacks launched by nations, organizations, groups of individuals, and individuals themselves will become commonplace. Symantec expects the frequency of such attacks to increase, especially when groups (like hacktivists) feel compelled to show their strength and send a message to their adversaries.

2. Ransomware

This type of malware locks a person’s computer ostensibly because he or she has browsed illicit materials. After the machine is infected, a screen that looks like it comes from a branch of local law enforcement demands money in order for the computer’s functionality to be restored.

Ransomware has been maturing over the last several years and now presents a full-blown threat. It’s commonly acquired through web exploits and drive-by downloads. Symantec says, “In 2013, attackers will use more professional ransom screens, up the emotional stakes to motivate their victims, and use methods that make it harder to recover once compromised.”

3. Madware

Madware is mobile adware downloaded alongside legitimate apps that often sends pop-up alerts to the notification bar, adds icons, changes browser settings and collects personal information, according to Symantec’s description. At best, madware disrupts the user experience, and at worst it exposes location data, contact information and device identifiers to cyber criminals.

Not all mobile adware is malicious but the company says the most aggressive forms of madware increased by 210% in the last nine months alone.

Symantec expects madware to become even more of a problem as companies try to make money off “free” mobile apps by collecting location and device information and using it to target users with advertising.

4. Exploitation of vulnerabilities in monetized social networks

Popular social networks are attempting to monetize their platforms by giving users the ability to send and receive real gifts to friends as well as opportunities to spend money on game credits. Symantec believes cyber criminals will increasingly target payment information stored by social networks and that some may even go as far as masquerading as fake social networks to get users to give up payment credentials and other personal information.

5. Attacks on mobile platforms and cloud services

As increasing numbers of businesses and individuals adopt mobile computing and move to the Cloud, so too will cyber criminals. Along with the increased risk of data breaches stemming from more and more data being stored in the Cloud, the security firm predicts mobile malware will be as big a threat as ever, including malware that steals information and sends premium text messages unbeknownst to users. The growth of mobile payments will also present a new platform for hackers to exploit in 2013.