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Symantec Predictions for 2016 -- Looking Ahead

Symantec | Jan. 11, 2016
There is no magic-bullet technology that will guarantee immunity from Internet crime or determined, targeted attacks, but being prepared for the worst can prevent some attacks.

With these changes happening so rapidly, regulation may be forced to catch up with technology in 2016. We may find that some countries or industries will begin to develop guidelines that address the new risks of information use, data ownership, and consent presented by IoT devices.

2.     Opportunities For Cybercriminals To Compromise Apple Devices Will Grow

Apple devices have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. According to IDC, the company now accounts for 13.5 percent of global smartphone shipments and 7.5 percent of global PC shipments. This increase in usage has not gone unnoticed by attackers. A rising number of threat actors have begun developing specific malware designed to infect devices running Mac OS X or iOS.

Although the number of threats targeting Apple operating systems remains quite low when compared to the company's main competitors (Windows in the desktop space and Android in mobile), the amount uncovered has grown steadily in recent years. In tandem with this, the level of Apple-related malware infections has spiked, particularly in the past 18 months.  

Security researchers have also given a greater focus on vulnerabilities in Apple software, with a number of high-profile flaws uncovered in the past year. Zero-day brokers have begun offering bounties for Apple vulnerabilities, with US$1 million paid recently for a jailbreak of iOS 9.1.

Should Apple's popularity continue to grow, it seems likely that these trends will continue in 2016. Apple users should not be complacent about security and change their perception that Apple devices are "free from malware"- this perception opens up opportunities for cybercriminals to take advantage of these users. They need to take precautions in order to prevent their devices from being compromised.

3.     The Battle Between Ransomware Gangs and Malware Distribution Networks Will Heat-Up

From early beginnings in Russian speaking counties, ransomware has evolved and spread into Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia. It is likely that some of the gangs responsible for the original ransomware are part of this expansion, but other established criminal gangs are also becoming involved. Clearly, the fraud is profitable for criminals and is likely to increase.

It is also possible that ransomware gangs will come into conflict with more traditional malware distributors in 2016. Ransomware infections are overt and obvious, while most other malware infections are covert and discreet. The presence of ransomware on a computer will usually prompt the computer owner to clean the machine thoroughly, removing any malware from it. As the ransomware may have been installed by a separate piece of malware, that other malware will also be removed, cutting into the malware operator's business model.

In 2016, more malware distribution networks may soon refuse to distribute such obvious malware, forcing the ransomware gangs to develop their own distribution methods (like Trojan.Ransomlock.G and Trojan.Ransomlock.P have already done).


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