Apple, mobile devices and social media will be cybercrime targets in 2011, McAfee says


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McAfee is forecasting that social media platforms, mobile devices and Apple products will be the focus of cybercriminals in 2011.

The Santa Clara-based tech security company said location-based services such as Foursquare, as well as popular social media sites like Twitter and URL-shortening websites, will be targeted by online thieves and hackers in its annual McAfee Threat Predictions report released Tuesday.


With more online computing being done on smart phones, tablet computers and other portable gadgets, mobile devices will likely be eyed by cybercriminals as well, leading to an increased risk of personal and corporate data loss, McAfee said in the report.

And Apple products, once largely ignored by hackers and tech-thieves, will see a rise in malware sophistication as their use in professional settings continues to increase, the report said.

‘We’ve seen significant advancements in device and social network adoption, placing a bulls-eye on the platforms and services users are embracing the most,’ said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs, in a statement. ‘These platforms and services have become very popular in a short amount of time, and we’re already seeing a significant increase in vulnerabilities, attacks and data loss.’

Internet-connected TVs and platforms such as Google TV, which are growing in popularity along with everything else mentioned on the list, will also become a breeding ground for cybercrimes, too, McAfee said.

McAfee also predicts that politically motivated attacks will increase next year as groups emerge, following in WikiLeaks’ footsteps.

While social media as a whole has grown in popularity over the last few years, URL-shortening services will be at the forefront of cybercrime activity, the report said.


The use of shortened web addresses on sites such as Twitter leaves users vulnerable to cybercriminals who can easily mask and lead users to malicious websites, McAfee said.

More than 3,000 URLs are shortened per minute, the company said, and a growing number of those Web addresses are actually sites that can barrage users with spam, malware and other scams to get a user’s data.

Location-based websites and apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places will be exploited because they track and plot the whereabouts a user and their ‘friends.’

‘In just a few clicks, cybercriminals can see in real time who is tweeting, where they are located, what they are saying, what their interests are, and what operating systems and applications they are using,’ McAfee said. ‘This wealth of personal information on individuals enables cybercriminals to craft a targeted attack.’


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles