Cisco report notes new cybercrime targets

Mobile platforms passing Windows PCs as scamming interface

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Cybercriminals are shifting their focus to smartphones and tablets, and away from Windows-based PCs, as targets for their scams, according to a new security report from Cisco released this week. Scammers are finding it harder to infiltrate Windows-based PCs, which they have targeted for the past decade, because vendors have bolstered security on those platforms and been more aggressive in general in patching vulnerabilities.

This has driven cybercriminals to other platforms, specifically mobile devices and their third party applications. The proliferation of these devices over the past several years, and their dizzying array of readily-available third party applications has made them increasingly the carriage of choice for scammers and cybercriminals locked out of their traditional Windows PC lair.

As a result, Infonetics expects the market for mobile security client software to grow at a compounded rate of 50% annually until 2014, to $1.6 billion. 

The Cisco security report also notes that 2010 was the first year "in the history of the Internet" that spam volume decreased. This is due to botnet takedowns, ISPs e-mail restrictions, and more diligence in pursuing offenders.

Despite this, spam was up in developed economies where broadband connections are spreading, such as France, Germany and the UK, Cisco found. Spam almost doubled in the UK between 2009 and 2010, the study showed. Meanwhile, heavily spammed Brazil, China and Turkey saw volumes drop significantly in 2010, with Turkey's plummeting 87%.  

This year, meanwhile, cybercrooks will invest in money muling - mules are people knowingly or unknowingly recruited to open bank accounts for laundering money. Mules are recruited through attractive "work-at-home" job advertisement schemes promising generous salaries.

Cisco believes muling operations will become more sophisticated and global in 2011 and beyond despite the high risk of being caught. As colleague Jeremy Kirk reports, dozens of people in the US and UK were arrested last year on charges they were part of a large gang that stole money from bank accounts using the Zeus program.

Also on the uptick this year will be data-theft Trojans such as Zeus and easy-to-deploy Web exploits. Waiting to be trialed is mobile malware, though Zeus is already being readied for the mobile platform, Cisco notes.

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