Sophisticated mass market attacks, refined malware to target users in 2013: Blue Coat

Security vendor sees malware creators adopting more covert and improved methods into tricking Internet users

Businesses should take a holistic view of their security as mass market and targeted threats converge, according to Blue Coat Systems Asia-Pacific product marketing director, Jonathan Andresen, who views mass market and targeted attacks as one and the same, and not separate entities.

Andresen said the focus should be on visibility for all traffic, including Web, non-Web and SSL.

“Each defensive solution logs traffic,” he said.

“Reviewing those logs on a regular basis to identify anomalies is crucial to stopping attacks.”

As for what businesses should be looking out for in 2013, Andresen points to mass market attacks that provide cover for targeted attacks.

With businesses manage many end points, Andresen said there is the potential that at any given time tens to hundreds of them may be infected, typically with mass market malware.

“While not the ideal security situation, businesses nonetheless tend to tolerate this level of mass market malware infections,” he said.

Most malware in 2013 is expected to come from large malnets that operate “malware as a business” model, which utilise infrastructures tuned to launch attacks that are highly effective at infecting users.

Unsurprisingly, this has meant malnet operators have built a thriving business.

“Their continued success at infecting computers indicates that they don't need a revolutionary breakthrough to continue making money, just on-going evolutionary adjustments,” Andresen said.

As the malnets amass funds through their activities, it is likely that their models will be refined as investments are made to develop more sophisticated, believable attacks.

For example, by taking the simple step of hiring translators and copy editors, better phishing emails can be created by malnet operators to mimic the real page of a financial institution.

“They can also invest in more believable web sites facades and more comprehensive exploit kits that will make their attacks more believable, increasing the likelihood of their success,” Andresen said.

Malware goes mobile

Mobile devices are expected by many to become high value targets in 2013, driven by more businesses allowing employees to access the corporate network from personal mobile devices.

So far, Andresen said smartphone attacks have been characterised by “mischiefware,” such as SMS texts or in-app purchases within rogue applications, that operates within the parameters of an app and does not break the phone’s security model.

In 2013, this is expected to change to malware that exploits the security of the device itself to identify valuable information and send it to a server, while at the same time not showing up as an app on the smartphone.

“Hand-in-hand with this new mobile malware threat, expect to see the first mobile botnet that can forward SMS messages to command and control servers,” Andresen said.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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