McAfee’s 2011 Threat Predictions report is out, and it highlights the key threats that McAfee Labs researchers expect to emerge or expand over the next 12 months. In addition to Geolocation, mobile devices, and the Mac OS X platform, threats are also expected against Internet TV platforms, and short URL services. Political ‘hacktivism’ is another area where McAfee researches expect to see more activity with new political groups leveraging the WikiLeaks paradigm.
“We’ve seen significant advancements in device and social network adoption, placing a bulls-eye on the platforms and services users are embracing the most,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs. “These platforms and services have become very popular in a short amount of time, and we’re already seeing a significant increase in vulnerabilities, attacks and data loss.”
To make McAfee ’s threat predictions for 2011 more digestible, I’ve broken each area out to show McAfee’s drilldown on the risk, and what the risk means to you. Look for a new segment every day; these will contain links to the previous segments if you want to go through the whole lot in one sitting.
From McAfee Threat Report – Exploiting Social Media: URL-shortening services:
Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have created the movement toward an “instant” form of communication, a shift that will completely alter the threat landscape in 2011. Of the social media sites that will be most riddled with cybercriminal activity, McAfee Labs expects those with URL-shortening services will be at the forefront. The use of abbreviated URLs on sites like Twitter makes it easy for cybercriminals to mask and direct users to malicious websites. With more than 3,000 shortened URLs per minute being generated, McAfee Labs expects to see a growing number used for spam, scamming and other malicious purposes.
What this means to you
Blindly trusting links has wreaked havoc on people’s computers, game consoles, handheld devices, and resulted in stolen identities, financial fraud, and more. The advent of shortened URL’s however takes the risks to new heights.
It does not matter if a URL (whether in long-form or shortened) appears to come from a friend, a person you’ve followed for some time, or comes unsolicited. Caution is ALWAYS required, as is staying in control of your experience. Instead of clicking on a link, copy the URL into a search engine query and look at the results. Does the site have a positive safety rating? If you do not currently use a tool that shows you the safety rating of websites, start now. Without a tool like this, you have no way of judging if the site is legitimate or going to give you malware, spam, etc… Most browsers now include these tools, and several companies offer standalone services for this. McAfee offers a free service called SiteAdvisor that I’ve used for years. I don’t care which service you use, just; pick one and use it faithfully!
Don’t be pulled by links that may or may not take you where you want to go. This is particularly true with ‘shortened’ or ‘mini’ links used on sites like Twitter. If you do not have 100% confidence that the link is going to take you to a legitimate site, look up the material yourself. To help you learn how, I’ve written the blog Mitigate Risks When Using Shortened URL’s.
And, since McAfee didn’t toot their own horn in their report, let me also mention McAfee’s relatively new Secure Short URL Service that tests the links for your safety. You can learn more about their service in my blog New Secure Short URL Service from McAfee.
Coming up in my next blog: Threat – Exploiting Social Media: Geolocation services