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Vigilance, awareness key to enterprise cybercrime prevention

Technology innovations designed for consumers, including personal mobile devices and other platforms, are now making their way into the workforce, and their popularity has ratcheted up the opportunities for cybercriminal attacks.

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Staying current with the latest cybercrime prevention strategies remains a top concern as enterprises now must support more devices than ever before. Doing so likely extends their corporate firewalls and services to places they may not be prepared for, according to the McAfee Labs' "McAfee Threats Report: Fourth Quarter 2010."

"Today, it's not really about the operating system anymore," said Dave Marcus, director of security research and communications at McAfee Labs, the global threat intelligence division of McAfee Inc. "I think the proof point is that any operating system can be penetrated. All operating systems [and] all code have vulnerabilities, and it just comes down to if the deployment footprint big enough to warrant the bad guys' attention."

With consumers in the workplace adopting so many new mobile platforms, botnet infections and distribution will target these devices. The report notes that a lack of security awareness and cybercrime prevention techniques among mobile users, as well as the relative immaturity of mobile management solutions, offers criminals countless opportunities to infiltrate corporate systems.

The FBI-backed Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that consumer cybercrime losses in the U.S. alone doubled from 2008 to 2009 to $560 million, while consumer complaints grew by more than 22%. Cybercriminals and scammers continue to abuse cloud services, with consumers' interest in particular search terms and trends an easily exploitable lure for a variety of attacks.

In 2010, McAfee Labs identified more than 20 million new pieces of malware, or nearly 55,000 malware threats every day. In addition, of the almost 55 million pieces of malware McAfee Labs has identified and protected against, 36% were written in 2010.

“In the past few quarters, malware trends have been very similar in different geographies but, in the last quarter, we’ve seen a significant shift in various regions, showing that cybercriminals are tapped in to trends worldwide," said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president at McAfee Labs. "McAfee Labs also sees the direct correlation between device popularity and cybercriminal activity, a trend we expect to surge in 2011.”

Anthony Di Bello, product marketing manager at compliance and cybersecurity at Guidance Software Inc. a digital investigation provider, said that his company has recently concentrated on designing cyber forensic technology to expose and address threats designed to evade layered security solutions.

"Examples of these types of threats include variants of the ZeuS banking Trojan, criminal or state-sponsored malware, insider threats and even threats designed to affect critical infrastructure," Di Bello said.

Attacks that use elements of social engineering are particularly successful in that they rely on unknown, trusted insiders to introduce the malware into the network, he added.

"This could come in the form of an email from a supposed retail with a 'click for some sort of promotion,' or an attacker leaving a USB drive on the ground in a public place near or at the target, waiting for a curious employee to plug the device into their computer, launching the payload," Di Bello said.

Marcus suggests that enterprises seek quality mobile management solutions for cybercrime prevention. With the popularity of products such as iPads and handheld devices, employees more than ever expect to be able to use these handheld devices at work for corporate email and document management.

With businesses being forced to manage consumer devices, it is important for IT departments consider how to craft a device management policy.

"That's actually a question we struggled with the beginning of last year, when we started actually seeing our own handheld usage by our own employees triple over a quarter or two," Marcus said.

He added that the company actually contends with more non-Windows-based devices than Windows-based ones.

"We had to start looking at applications and management technologies that would work across all these different platforms," Marcus said. "We looked at some technologies and created some technologies that allowed us to actually manage email, manage applications and manage browsers. And I think a lot of enterprises are going to have to ask themselves those same questions."

In the past few quarters, malware trends have been very similar in different geographies but, in the last quarter, we’ve seen a significant shift in various regions, showing that cybercriminals are tapped in to trends worldwide.

Vincent Weafer, senior vice president, McAfee Labs

McAfee offers a device that works across iPads, different versions of the Android operating platform and mobile phones that allows people to connect their devices to the corporate network. "It allows you to put policy on it," Marcus said. "And, if I were an IT guy at an enterprise, that would be my question: How can I put some type of policy on all these different types of devices and technologies?"

Even with a policy in place, it's important not to become complacent: As soon as some form of technology to counter cybercriminals is developed, these same criminals step up their game and figure out new ways to wreak havoc, experts said.

Looking ahead to future cybercrime trends, McAfee Labs predicts the continuation of social networking scams through tactics such as malicious links, phony friend requests and phishing attempts. Scams are also likely to get more personalized, especially if users continue to share personal information on the Web.

McAfee Labs also foresees more Twitter abuse, as well as headaches caused by location-based services. With more and more users posting where they are in the physical world, crooks have ample opportunities to figure out users’ patterns, according to another recent report from McAfee Labs.

Vigilance is key. Marcus says it's important to look to the future and consider the potential vulnerabilities of new technology and how the organization can secure applications and transmissions for it.

"We have to look at it from the point of view of how can it be abused, how do we think it will be abused and how can we educate people, change some behaviors and protect them," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ben Cole, Associate Editor.

This was first published in February 2011

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