Of note – this is an article that was published internally to a corporate website.  I thought it was more informative than what I had in store to write and loved the list of what you can do at the bottom.  So, it is my hope you enjoy this post on looking at threats that will be prevalent this year.

Danger AheadDuring 2012, cyber security incidents included theft of public and private intellectual property, hacktivism, ransomware, malware targeting mobile devices, and an increase in the use of malicious software including the Black Hole Rootkit and Zero Access Trojan.  What will we see in 2013?  Below is a brief roundup, listed in no particular order, of several threats and trends we can expect during the next 12 months.

Mobile Devices in the Enterprise

As the use of mobile devices grew in 2012, so too has the volume of attacks targeted to them.  Every new smartphone, tablet or other mobile device provides another opportunity for a potential cyber attack.  Risks include access to corporate email and files, as well as the ability for the mobile device apps to download malware, such as keyloggers or programs that eavesdrop on phone calls and text messages.

New capabilities, such as near field communication (NFC), will be on the rise in 2013 and will increase the opportunities for cyber criminals to exploit weaknesses.  NFC allows smartphones to communicate with each other by simply touching another smartphone, or being in close proximity to another smartphone with NFC capabilities or an NFC device.  This technology is being used for credit card purchases and advertisements in airports and magazines, and will most likely be incorporated into other uses in 2013.  Risks with using NFC include eavesdropping—through which the cyber criminal can intercept data transmission, such as credit card numbers—and transferring viruses or other malware from one NFC-enabled device to another.


Ransomware is a type of malware that is used for extortion.  The attacker distributes malware that will take over a system by encrypting the contents or locking the system; the attacker then demands money from the victim in exchange for releasing the data and/or unlocking the system.  Once payment is delivered, the attacker may or may not provide the data or access to the system.  Even if access is restored, the integrity of the data is still in question.  This type of malware and delivery mechanism will become more sophisticated in 2013.

Social Media

Use of social media sites has grown beyond just sharing personal information, such as vacation photos and messaging.  These sites are being used increasingly for advertising, purchasing and gaming.  For 2013, attackers will look to exploit this volume and variety of data being shared to credentials or other personally identifiable information (PII), such as Social Security numbers.


Attacks carried out as cyber protests for politically or socially motivated purposes, or “just because they can” have increased, and are expected to continue in 2013.  Common strategies used by hactivist groups include denial-of-service attacks and Web-based attacks, such as SQL injections.  Once a system is compromised, the attacker will harvest data, such as user credentials, to gain access to additional data, emails, credentials, credit card data and other sensitive information.

Advanced Persistent Threat

Advanced persistent threat (APT) refers to a long-term pattern of targeted hacking attacks using subversive and stealthy means to gain continual, persistent exfiltration of data.  The entry point for these types of espionage activities is often the unsuspecting end user or weak perimeter security.  Whether focused on exploiting vulnerable networks or unsuspecting end users, APT will remain a consistent threat to networks in 2013.

Spear Phishing Attacks

Spear phishing is a deceptive communication, such as email, text or tweet, targeting a specific individual, seeking to obtain unauthorized access to personal or sensitive data.  Spear phishing attempts are not typically initiated by “random hackers” but are more likely to be conducted by perpetrators seeking financial gain, trade secrets or sensitive information.  Spear phishing is often the nexus to cyber espionage/APT and will continue to increase this year.

What Can You Do?

By using sound cyber security practices, users and organizations can strengthen readiness and response to help defend against the myriad of challenges and mitigate potential impacts of incidents:

  •  Enable encryption and password features on your smartphones and other mobile devices.
  • Use strong passwords that combine upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters, and do not share them with anyone.  Use a separate password for every account.  In particular, do not use the same password for your work account on any other system.
  • Disable wireless, Bluetooth and NFC when not in use.
  • Properly configure and patch operating systems, browsers and other software programs.  This should be done not only on workstations and servers, but mobile devices as well.
  • Use and regularly update firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.
  • Be cautious regarding all communications; think before you click.  Use common sense when communicating with users you do and do NOT know.  Do not open email or related attachments from untrusted sources.
  • Don’t reveal too much information about yourself online.  Depending on the information you reveal, you could become the target of identity or property theft.
  • Be careful with whom you communicate or provide information on social media sites.  Those ‘friends’ or games might be looking to steal your information.
  • Protect your access credentials – never share or tell others your credentials (user name, password).
  • If you have a device that is used for work purposes, do not share that device with friends or family.