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Five big security threats for 2011

Ian Paul | March 10, 2011
Online malicious activity was a major headache in 2010, and so far, 2011 is no different: We've seen scams and malware on Twitter, Facebook, and the Android Market, as well as a rise in politically motivated online attacks. But that's no surprise to security experts such as Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security firm Sophos. Cluley says that Sophos analyzes about 95,000 pieces of malware every day that is either brand-new or a variant of an older attack.

FRAMINGHAM, 10 MARCH 2011 - Online malicious activity was a major headache in 2010, and so far, 2011 is no different: We've seen scams and malware on Twitter, Facebook, and the Android Market, as well as a rise in politically motivated online attacks. But that's no surprise to security experts such as Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security firm Sophos. Cluley says that Sophos analyzes about 95,000 pieces of malware every day that is either brand-new or a variant of an older attack.

The bad guys are hard at work figuring out new ways to infect your system. The good news is that the latest antivirus programs do a better job than ever at detecting suspicious activity before it can damage your computer.

But security software can't always protect you; sometimes the best defense is a dose of common sense and a little bit of knowledge about what to watch out for. Whether it's fake antivirus scams, malware on social networks, or good old-fashioned e-mail attachments loaded with viruses, it pays to be on your toes so you don't end up becoming a victim to identity theft, a raided bank account, or even a home invasion.

So here's a look at 2011's five big security threats, and the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.

Threat 1: Mobile Apps

What it is: It isn't surprising that smartphones are a hot new malware target: 85 percent of adults in the United States own a mobile phone, according to a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and the smartphone market is growing at a rapid pace.

As recently as March 1, more than 50 third-party applications on Google's (GOOG) official Android Market contained a Trojan called DroidDream. When you run a DroidDream application for the first time, the malware gains administrator access over your phone without your permission, according to mobile security firm Lookout. That means it could download more malicious programs to your phone without your knowledge and steal data saved on your device.

Google was able to stop the DroidDream outbreak by deleting the bad apps from the Market and remotely removing malicious apps from Android users' devices, but it's only a matter of time before the next outbreak occurs.

And malicious apps on the Android Market aren't the only way that malware authors can target phones: A recent Android malware outbreak in China spread through repackaged apps distributed on forums or through alternative app markets.

 

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