Are you petrified of security attacks on your computer? Are you extra careful about avoiding strange Web sites? Do you buy lots of software to protect you from hackers, viruses and other unspeakably sinister technological evildoers?
If the answer is yes, you're slightly ahead of the game when it comes to protecting yourself online, but sadly, you're far from safe.
Oliver Friedrichs, director of emerging technologies at Symantec, the California-based security software firm, shared some of the scary things going on with the Consuming Interests blog last month. "If you look back on 2007, at one time, we were able to protect ourselves by only going to trusted Web sites," he said.
Friedrichs added, "2007 showed us a different trend - that attackers were using social networking sites, e-commerce and auction sites, and attacks [were] perpetrated by banner advertisements where ads were infected with a virus. Sometimes, you needed to click on the ad. Sometimes, you only needed to view the ad."
In either case, the infected ad promptly downloads a virus or bot into your computer that would steal personal data from your computer or wipe out all the data stored on your hard drive.
Before, Friedrichs said, we merely avoided the seedier sides of the Internet and we were relatively safe. Now, it's an entirely different ballgame.
Here are six main security trends Symantec says we should watch out for in 2008:
1. Bots - The forms of Trojans that infect your computer and place it under the control of an attacker. Bots can steal information from your computer such as passwords and account numbers. Or they can force your computer to do nefarious things like launch attacks on Web sites.
2. Web threats - We're likely to see more malicious code being written. Remember Blaster, SoBig and MyDoom? Friedrichs says prepare yourself for more, but worse.
3. Mobile platforms - With the increased adoption of online banking and online e-commerce on mobile phones, we're likely to see more attacks against them.
4. Spam - Today, 70 percent of e-mail is spam. Consider for a moment how many people get e-mail on BlackBerrys and other mobile devices. Now add video-based or MP3 spam to the growing clutter.
5. Virtual worlds - We've seen attacks on certain online games like Lineage, a medieval fantasy and multiplayer role-playing game in Asia. Friedrichs says we'll see more Trojans try to steal your log-on password, name and virtual goods.
Think it's a joke? Real police in the Netherlands arrested a teenager for stealing $5,800 worth of imaginary furniture. Problem is, his virtual victims use real cash to pay for credits to spend on virtual items online. Yes, it's very confusing. But we will hear about more cases of virtual property thievery.
6. Presidential election - In the coming election, Friedrichs said, we'll see many attacks targeting candidates and parties. We'll see more phishing against individual campaigns. Politicians and their Web pages should beware.
It's not entirely reassuring, but Friedrichs advised that you can better protect yourself by setting your computer up with security software. Surprisingly, he said that over 50 percent of consumers don't have security protections on their computer.
"Other than that, you just have to be aware of what's happening to your computer," Friedrichs said. "You do rely on technology to protect yourself, but you can't rely on it completely."
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