Cybercriminals will target filesharing sites in 2010, warn security experts

Hackers and cybercriminals will move away from launching attacks through websites and applications in favour of launching them through filesharing networks, say computer experts at Kaspersky Labs. There has been growing evidence this year that hackers favour torrent sites for spreading malicious software and viruses, with several viruses, including the Virut virus and a Trojan aimed at computers running Apple's Mac OS X system, already propagating through filesharing services.

“Malware will become much more sophisticated in 2010 and many antivirus programs will be slow to treat infected computers due to advanced file infection methods and rootkit technologies,” said Alex Gostev, director of the global research and analysis team at Kaspersky Labs. “The industry will respond by developing even more complex protection tools, but the malicious programs capable of bypassing these measures will remain more or less immune to antivirus programs for some time.”

Security experts warned that Google's new real-time collaboration tool, Google Wave, could also be vulnerable to attacks in 2010. "Attacks on this new Google service will no doubt follow the usual pattern: first, the sending of spam, followed by phishing attacks, then the exploiting of vulnerabilities and the spreading of malware," warned Kaspersky Labs. However, the company "does not anticipate" that hackers and cybercriminals will target Google's forthcoming computer operating system, Google Chrome.

Mobile phones, particularly Apple's iPhone and those based on the Google Android platform, could also face a difficult time. Kaspersky Labs said the first malicious programs for these operating systems appeared in the last 12 months, a "sure sign" that they are of interest to cybercriminals. The security experts said that only "jailbroken" iPhones, which had been hacked by users to run any software and use any network, would be at risk, but that all Android users would be "vulnerable to attack".

"The increasing popularity of mobile phones running the Android operating system in China, combined with a lack of effective checks to ensure third-party software applications are secure, will lead to a number of high profile malware outbreaks," warned Kaspersky Labs in its annual threat report.

Security professionals believe that loopholes, known as vulnerabilities, in the underlying code that powers software and computer operating systems, would provide the easiest bait for hackers and cybercriminals, and remain the "major cause" of virus epidemics.

However, Kaspersky Labs said that fake antivirus scams – in which unsuspecting computer users are tricked in to clicking on dialogue boxes, believing they are downloading security software, only to find their computer at the mercy of hackers instead – would likely decline in 2010.

This year saw a peak in fake antivirus activity, said the firm. "The fake antivirus market has now been saturated and the profits for cybercriminals have fallen," said Kaspersky Labs in its threat report. "Moreover, this kind of activity is closely monitored by both IT security companies and law enforcement agencies. This makes it increasingly difficult to create and distribute fake antivirus programs."

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