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Sophos warns of 2011 security threats

Fake anti-virus products will dominate

Security firm, Sophos, is warning people to be on the look out for malware or malicious software and scams in 2011.

The company claims that its lab analysed 95,000 pieces of malware in 2010, double the amount identified in 2009, proving that the malware threat continues to grow at ‘an alarming rate’.

However, a spokesperson for the company admitted that despite these figures over 90% of these threats are identified by existing virus definitions and techniques.

This admission echoes a recent investigation by Which? Computing, that revealed computers with anti-virus protection are safer than many consumers think.

For more on Which? Computing’s research and to share your opinion see Which? Conversation

Fake anti-virus software dominates

Fears over computer security have led to a rise in fake anti-virus software scams, a trend Sophos says will continue through 2011.

Also known as rogueware or scareware the scams pop-up fake anti-virus warnings enticing people to pay for protection that they don’t need and, in the worst cases, install malware that can steal your credit card information.

Beware of search results

Another increasing problem is that of infected search results.

‘Scammers monitor Google trends. For example, ‘when Prince William became engaged to Kate Middleton, it was a big story worldwide,’ says Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

‘They build infected websites around that search. When you access the page, they pop-up a fake anti-virus alert to get you to pay $80 for protection,’ he adds.

Make sure you’re protected with genuine security software

Facebook scams proliferate

The popularity of social networking website Facebook makes it a prime target.

One threat to watch out for is a scam that Sophos dubs ‘clickjacking’ whereby malicious links are disguised; by liking these buttons users become infected.

‘People click on links if they relate to things that they like to do. They want to do it,’ says Cluley. 

‘Similarly with features such as the auto-tagging of pictures the onus is on users to turn these features off, which makes them prone to abuse,’ he adds.

During 2010 spamming on social networks rose with 67% of people receiving spam messages compared to 57% at the end of 2009.

Phishing and malware attacks were also rife with 43% of people spotting phishing attacks and 40% malware.

Apps and smartphones prone to attack

Apple iPhone 4

The rise of smartphones and downloadable apps makes these and attractive target, too.

However, the majority of threats have targeted jailbroken devices, such as a jailbroken iPhone.

These are devices where people have unlocked features, which also disables core security features.

Find out more

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