In part two of our look at what you can expect in the coming year, faint rumblings out of Japan suggest that one prediction from Part 1 of this article has already come true. If the very real prospect of becoming an innocent casualty of war isn’t enough to make you run backward toward the year that just passed, these bold predictions reveal how hackers will develop an even stronger sense of camaraderie, and how mobility is sure to become a four-letter word. And if you thought spamming and Internet scams made it personal in 2011, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
How about that? 2012 wasn’t even seven days old when news out of Japan this week revealed some eerie premonitions of the things to come and earmarks of a bold prediction made one week ago. Engadget, ZD Net and other media outlets are reporting that the Japanese government has been working in concert with Fujitsu since 2008 to develop a powerful ‘cyber weapon’ – a piece of software that, upon the detection of a cyber attack (such as DDoS, for example) tracks the attack back to the source.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Sure, until you consider that the software also attacks and disables every machine it finds along the trail. The goal, Engadget reports, “is to stop the spread of a malicious piece of code by finding and shutting down, not just the source, but all middleman PCs that are also now potential hosts. In some admittedly extreme scenarios this weapon could potentially spiral out of control, taking out far more computers than intended.”
Hmm. Botnets are nothing more than large numbers of unsuspecting computers carrying out their attacks at the behest of the infector and ignorance of the computer’s owner. Japan’s little toy, while it sounds like it might be fun to take for a spin, could have the unpleasant and unprecedented effect of being the cause of some serious collateral damage. Casualties of war? Here’s a tip for everyone: while you still have a chance, give that fave desktop or laptop of yours a great big hug before it’s too late.
Hackers of the World, Unite
Robin Hood met Mafia Boy last year as hacktivism took center stage. Indeed, 2011 was an entertaining year for anyone who followed the exploits of Anonymous and LulzSec. The drama unfolded like a kabuki play born in the mind of Ken Kesey and brought to life by a troupe of mimes with Tourette Syndrome, and there were even a few arrests along the way to make this reality show really…ahem… arresting.
Prediction: We will see some new hacking activity from these groups, with some high profile web takedowns in the process. While that’s not a stretch, this is: hacker groups like Anonymous and LulzSec will grow in size substantially, resembling an ‘occupy’ type movement that will take the war online. The civil and social unrest of 2011 will turn to face the financial behemoth that is the Internet.
Mobility Means Vulnerability
If we learned anything about spam in 2011, it’s that spam is like that proverbial bum of a brother-in-law who’s been living in your basement for the past two years. It’s not going away, good luck making it work for you, and you will be out-of-pocket at some point. Spammers continued to use every means at their disposal in 2011, with SMS spam becoming a real pain in the neck. Security flaws in the two most popular smartphone platforms – iOS and Android – just accented what we already suspected: that spammers and purveyors of malware had taken their show on the road.
Prediction: 2012 will see a massive increase in mobile spam, and mobile devices will become the swords upon which we will live or die unless we get mobile security under control.
It’s Nothing Personal…Well, Actually, It Is
A significant development in spam and phishing in 2011 was the way in which the scam artists were getting smarter…you know, smarter in much the same way that a chunk of igneous rock living at the bottom of a fetid riverbed is smarter than a rotting patch of lichen hanging for dear life to the side of an oak tree. Like it or not, the scambags are wilier, finding new and innovative ways to pick your pocket without actually residing in the same time zone.
Prediction: The scambags will become even cleverer in their assaults, finding new methods to lull people into a false sense of security. How this will occur remains to be seen, but our bold prediction is that it will most likely involve highly targeted, multilevel campaigns where the scammer will use detailed knowledge of the targets, and multiple contact methods like email, phone, SMS and even snail mail to enact their evil schemes.