Security threats to beware in 2011

Many predicted social networks would become virtual playgrounds for hackers in 2010 and they were right. Disconcertingly, 2011 looks likely to get even worse, according to a wide range of security experts.

Joona Airamo, chief information security officer at Stonesoft, warned one attack could affect millions of users.

"Hackers will use malware that copies a user's address book and sends out malicious emails/files to all their friends," he said.

"Just like the old email scams, the malicious file will look like it has been sent from the initial target so recipients will trust the source."

Given the introduction of Facebook Messages, an attack like the one Airamo outlined could become even more widespread. With some hope, Zuckerberg and Co will be on their security game to protect users.

Social engineering will continue to be big in 2011 in general, with Trend Micro claiming cyber criminals will launch malware campaigns by bombarding unwitting users with emails that "drop downloaders" containing malware.

Rising zero-days

In 2010, zero-day threats were disturbingly common, affecting various pieces of much-used technology, including Adobe Reader, Windows and Internet Explorer.

This year, expect to see plenty more such sudden dangers and vendors scrambling to issue fixes.

"Zero-day vulnerabilities are widely considered something of a common occurrence. Sadly, that trend is set to continue in 2011, with zero-day threats becoming even more prevalent," said Kaspersky's Gostev.

"The rise in malicious exploits that seize on programming errors won't just be down to new vulnerabilities they will also occur because of the speed at which cyber criminals react to such loopholes."

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.