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[ISN] Browser vulns and botnets head threat list


By John Leyden
The Register
14th January 2008

Security experts have looked into the crystal ball to predict the cyber 
attacks most likely to cause substantial damage this year.

The resulting list (below), drawn together by 12 security experts under 
the auspices of the SANS Institute, is based on an analysis of emerging 
attack patterns. Two of the resulting predictions - malware on consumer 
devices and web application security exploits - have already come true 
in the early days of 2008, evidence that that the run down is closer to 
the mark than other security predictions.

As is often the case browser exploit came out as the top threat in the 
run down but the risk is evolving. Web site attacks have migrated from 
simple exploits to more sophisticated attacks based on scripts that 
cycle through multiple exploits to yet more sophisticated attacks 
featuring packaged modules. One of the latest such modules, mpack, 
produces a claimed 10-25 per cent success rate in infecting surfers.

Attackers are actively placing exploit code on popular, trusted web 
sites where users have an expectation of security. Placing better attack 
tools on trusted sites is giving attackers a huge advantage over the 
unwary public. Meanwhile attackers have broadened the scope of the 
vulnerabilities they target to encompass components, such as Flash and 
QuickTime, that are not automatically patched when the browser is 

Evolution in existing threats - including stealthier botnet control 
techniques and more subtle social engineering approaches in phishing 
attacks - is a theme that runs through the whole list.
1. Increasingly sophisticated website attacks that exploit browser 
   vulnerabilities - especially on trusted websites.
2. Increasing sophistication and effectiveness in botnets
3. Cyber espionage efforts by well resourced organisations looking to 
   extract large amounts of data particularly using targeted phishing.
4. An increase in mobile phone threats, especially against iPhones and 
   Android-based phones.
5. Insider attacks
6. Advanced identity theft from persistent bots. Malicious agents that 
   stay on compromised machines for months will be able to gather enough 
   data to enable extortion attempts (against people who surf child porn 
   sites, for example) and advanced identify theft attempts where 
   criminals have enough data to pass basic security checks.
7. Increasingly malicious spyware
8. Web application security exploits
9. Increasingly sophisticated social engineering including blending 
   phishing with VoIP and event phishing. For example, a blended attack 
   may include an inbound email, apparently being sent by a credit card 
   company, asks recipients to "re-authorise" their credit cards by 
   calling a 1-800 number. The number leads them (via VoIP) to an 
   automated system in a foreign country that, quite convincingly, asks 
   that they key in their credit card number, CVV, and expiration date.
10. Supply chain attacks infecting consumer devices (USB thumb drives, 
    GPS systems, photo frames, etc.) Retail outlets are increasingly 
    becoming unwitting distributors of malware-infected devices, the 
    experts warns.

The list will be formally launched at the SANS Security 2008 conference 
in New Orleans later on Monday (14 January).

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