All is not safe in cyber land …

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The most advanced criminals are going to ride the waves of personal devices, personal social media use, and personal web activities of employees to create more advanced, social engineering attacks to get in. Many of the business and government attacks in the coming year won't necessarily be about how complex the code is, but how well they can convincingly lure unsuspecting victims to click.” –Dan Hubbard, chief technology officer, Websense

Yes, yes, I know: I’ve harped on the information technology (IT) security topic a lot of late – a subject only tangentially related to the work trucks perform for our nation.

Yet IT now permeates everything we humans do now, both in our work and personal lives – and this is especially true for truck drivers. Cell phones and “smart phones” are but two of the many tools drivers use to stay in touch both with the company and the family whilst performing their vital (if often taken for granted) tasks.

Now, “social media” such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like are becoming more integral parts of the truck driver’s life – and that of his company.

So when internet security experts such as Websense Security Labs predict that 2012 will be the year we witness a significant increase in criminal activity designed to exploit social media, then it’s something the trucking community needs to sit up and take notes about.

Here are the firm’s top predictions when it comes to the kinds of internet-based criminal activity all web users should keep a wary eye out for:

1. Your social media identity may prove more valuable to cyber-criminals than your credit cards. Bad guys will actively buy and sell social media credentials in online forums.

Trust is the basis of social networking, so if a bad guy compromises your social media log-ins, there is a good chance they can manipulate your friends. Which leads us to prediction number two …

2. The primary blended attack method used in the most advanced attacks will be to go through your social media "friends," mobile devices and through the cloud.

Websense says its already seen one APT [advanced persistent threat] attack that used the "chat" functionality of a compromised social network account to get to the right user. Expect this to be the primary vector, along with mobile and cloud exploits, in the most persistent and advanced attacks of 2012.

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3. Thousands of different mobile device attacks are coming to a smartphone or tablet near you.

People have been predicting this for years, but in 2011 it actually started to happen. And watch out: the number of people who fall victim to believable social engineering scams will go through the roof if the bad guys find a way to use mobile location-based services to design “hyper-specific, geo-location” social engineering attempts. [I have no idea what that means, but it just sounds bad to me!]

4. SSL/TLS will put net traffic into a corporate IT blind spot.

Two items are increasing traffic over SSL/TLS ["Secure Sockets Layer" and "Transport Layer Security"] secure "tunnels" for privacy and protection. First is the disruptive growth of mobile and tablet devices. And second, many of the largest, most commonly used websites, like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are switching to "https" sessions by default, ostensibly a more secure transmission. But as more traffic moves through encrypted tunnels, many traditional enterprise security defenses are going to be left looking for a threat needle in a haystack, since they cannot inspect the encoded traffic.

5. Containment is the new prevention.

For years, security defenses have focused on keeping cyber-crime and malware out. Organizations on the leading edge will implement outbound inspection and will focus on adapting prevention technologies to be more about containment, severing communications, and data loss mitigation after an initial infection.

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6. The London Olympics, U.S. presidential elections, the Mayan calendar, and apocalyptic predictions will lead to broad attacks by criminals.

Cyber-criminals will continue to take advantage of today's 24-hour, up-to-the minute news cycle, only now they will infect users where they are less suspicious: sites designed to look like legitimate news services, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts/emails, LinkedIn updates, YouTube video comments, and forum conversations.

7. Social engineering and rogue anti-virus will continue to reign.

"Scareware" tactics and the use of rogue anti-virus programs, which decreased a bit in 2011, will stage a comeback. Except, instead of seeing "You have been infected" pages, we anticipate three areas will emerge as growing scareware subcategories in 2012: a growth in fake registry clean-up, fake speed improvement software, and fake back-up software mimicking popular personal cloud backup systems.

“The year 2011 proved that in the world of enterprise security, anything and everything goes,” noted Dan Hubbard, chief technology officer for Websense. “In 2012, as broader adoption of mobile, social and cloud technologies explode, we will see the bad guys move rapidly to take advantage of this shift.”

One thing that’s being learned from the explosion of breaches, amplification of advanced malware, and propagation of exploit kits, stressed Hubbard, is that the common factor here is very simple: the world wide web.

“Almost all of the major attacks of 2011 employed a web component, whether as a vector, command-and-control center, or the pipeline for stolen data and critical internet protocols,” he pointed out. “Web attacks are going beyond the browser, and as the number of API [application programming interface] requests gains momentum we will see attackers using the APIs for their own malicious exploitation.”

Hubbard warns that the most advanced “online” criminals are going to ride the waves of personal devices, personal social media use, and personal web activities of employees to create more advanced, social engineering attacks to invade business and personal networks alike.

“Many of the business and government attacks in the coming year won't necessarily be about how complex the code is, but how well they can convincingly lure unsuspecting victims to click,” he said.

A chilling security forecast for the cyber world, no doubt, but one that will prove useful if IT users take such warnings to heart.

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Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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