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Top Tech Threats & Trends for 2011

Here at InfoSight, Inc. we have put together our take on what the key tech trends and threats of 2011 will be. We know as the technologies become faster and smarter so will the threats that follow them. The Social Engineering and Black Hat SEO we experienced in the previous year will still hold strong and continue to transform, and we’ll see a continued increase in spending on virtualization, cloud computing and mobile technology.  We don’t consider ourselves fortune tellers, but read on to see if you agree.

TRENDS

VIRTUALIZATION: Fifty-six percent of companies plan to invest in some form of virtualization in 2011 so it’s safe to say that virtualization has definitely found its place. It’ll continue to grow in coming years too, as the Market Intel group predicts that $290B will be spent globally in virtualization over the next five years.

CLOUD COMPUTING: Cloud computing follows right behind virtualization and continues to grow.  Everyone has been talking about cloud computing, and many feel it’s time to implement it as the ‘norm’ for transporting backup data. Having this information at your fingertips is imperative to security compliance and regulation. As we continue to see the expansion of cloud computing, the diversity of the cloud will become crucial. Emerging regulatory obligations will encourage growth for industries that are required to comply such as Financial Services, Health Care and Education. However, the risks associated with cloud computing are also gaining attention.

MOBILE APPS: Currently, there are more than a million mobile apps available and one billion smartphones in circulation. Gartner, Inc.  predicts that mobile application downloads will grow to 21B by 2013. Developers will improve the aps adding analytics, allowing companies to see how their apps are being used as well as improving the user experience.  RFID chips will transform mobile phones into a payment tool and increase the amount of ecommerce conducted through the apps.  Currently, there are no mandatory information security regulations in place for the distribution of application channels, which will put users at risk.

SOCIAL TECHNOLOGIES: Social technologies have changed the way companies operate and whether or not they’re able to maintain their edge over the competition.  We’re already seeing banks using blogs and twitter as a customer service tool. In an effort to be successful, organizations will need to strategically coordinate their CRM, communications and social media technologies into almost every aspect of their business.

ONLINE BANKING: The revolution has begun.  Spending on technology that allows users to access banking services via the Internet will reach $9.7 billion, up an average of 33% a year. Mobile payments will continue to gain traction in the online world as more people get on the mobile bandwagon. Remote checking deposits have also caught on like wild fire fueling and more and more consumers are using online banking. Financial institutions will continue to develop mobile apps to attract and interact with their customers.

These trends are raising the bar for risk management and they give us preview of some pretty big challenges coming up. Let’s take a look at some of the emerging threats.

THREATS

EMAIL BORNE MALWARE: Easy-to-use toolkits available on the black market will lead to the flourishing of email borne threats in 2011. Many of the infected emails we saw in the past came from well known companies such as FedEx and LinkedIn.  A new method is emerging that reuses content from emails already found on the victim’s computer, making it even harder to detect the malware. Every user, from the newest administrative assistant to C-level executives, needs training to learn how to identify and avoid fraudulent email and other messages, harmful file attachments and internet behavior that can lead to trouble. New regulations on the horizon will make user training mandatory.

MOBILE MALWARE:
As devices grow more intricate and multi-faceted, they become gold mines for storing, collecting and transmitting confidential data.  PDA’s are not alone anymore; Tablets are now also on the radar for malicious malware. Mobile banking and NFC enabled (online banking transactions) payments are beginning to be targeted by cybercriminals, and today’s unregulated virtual infrastructure will demand a plan of action to protect mobile devices.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING: This is nothing new, but the rapidly increasing number of users is alarming. There are approximately half a billion users on Facebook and Twitter, making these heavily-used sites irresistible to social engineering attacks. These attacks are becoming more professional, convincing, and pre-meditated.  URL shortners, popular on these social networking sites, are contributing to the amount of attacks and it’s harder for victims to detect the fraud.  Using a technique called clickjacking, the victim is tricked into clicking on a disguised link. Often “liking” the content in question sends the attack out to contacts through newsfeeds and status updates, propagating the scam. Social engineering, however, is not confined to social networking sites. It was merely the focus of today’s commentary.

In summary, there are some exciting technologies developing as we saw earlier in this post. When technologies are developed faster than security precautions, risks increase. Still, cyber security is really all about people. Technology is simply a tool that enables and simplifies the things people want to do. Understanding the threats and the attack methods used can help protect us and minimize the danger. The better we prepare ourselves and our employees to recognize and avoid the danger, the better we will be at protecting our sensitive data from exploitation.

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