Top four cyber threats for 2011 revealed

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Washington, Jan 8 (ANI): From Internet superweapons to Facebook crimes, security experts have predicted some new web attacks for 2011.

Here are the top four security concerns that cyber experts see coming over the digital horizon:

Cyber War's newest superweapon: Stuxnet and Copycats

Stuxnet was first discovered in July 2010 by a security firm in Belarus, but made headlines only when Iranian state media announced the Middle East nation had been the target of a coordinated attack.

"The idea that a piece of malicious code can target physical systems and create real-world impacts is something that's been speculated in the industry for quite some time and certainly was largely understood to be possible," ABC News quoted Ben Greenbaum, senior research manager for cyber security firm Symantec, as saying.

When Hacktivists attack

Another recent online development that experts expect to see increase in 2011 was played out on an international scale at the end of 2010.

Shortly after the information sharing website WikiLeaks published a portion of over 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic documents, the website's founder, Julian Assange, was arrested on sexual assault charges. While he was in custody in England, some major financial institutions including Mastercard, Paypal and Visa discontinued a service that was helping to raise money for Assange's defense.

Wikileaks' supporters shot back in an unprecedented manner: nearly 50,000 people downloaded simple programs used to launch a massive denial of service attacks against the companies they deemed at odds with Wikileaks.

The loosely organized "hacktivists" managed to take down the web pages of several of their targets, and their spontaneous attempt may be the first major showing of a new way to express political beliefs at a grassroots level.

Cyber security firm McAfee predicts in a new paper that not only will politically motivated attacks be "far more numerous in 2011," but also the company said brand new kinds of attacks would appear.

Mobile devices: Two ways for criminals to take advantage

On a more personal level, experts warned that as more and more people own internet-capable mobile devices in 2011, they're also increasing their exposure to cyber and real-life criminals.

First, McAfee showed that the GPS functions on many smart phones that allow users to tell their friends where they are via Facebook and Twitter also tell criminals exactly where they are-and where they are not.

"It then becomes child's play to craft a targeted attack based upon what the bad guys have just learned from these services," McAfee said.

While this is not a new phenomenon, McAfee reported mobile tracking will be a "huge focus for cybercriminals and scammers in 2011 and beyond."

Second, both Security News Daily and Symantec list the technical vulnerabilities of mobile devices on their list of dangers for 2011.

Spammers Adapt to Social Media

Finally, experts said 2011 is going to see a change in perhaps the most annoying security concern online: spammers.

A curious thing happened in Dec. 2010: Normally the amount of email spam would be at its highest levels during the holiday season, but instead it dropped dramatically, according to a study by web security provider Commtouch. Part of the reason, McAfee said, is that spammers are altering their strategy.

Rather than bombarding users with countless emails, they bombard users through social networking sites-with multiple links and requests from programs like Facebook and Twitter-attempting to trick users including clicking on links to malicious code.

"This shift will completely alter the threat landscape in 2011," said McAfee. (ANI)

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