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Adobe predicted as top 2010 hacker target

McAfee's crystal ball also reveals Google Chrome dangers

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Adobe will overtake Microsoft as the primary target for hackers and virus writers in 2010, net-security firm McAfee predicts.

Attacks targeting vulnerabilities in Acrobat Reader and Flash are already commonplace, driven in part by that software's widespread use. The often-tricky update process and lack of user awareness that apps as well as browsers and Windows need updating further compounds the problem of PDF-based malware - which McAfee reckons will only increase next year.

The security firm also predicts an increase in the severity and power of hacking attacks aimed at users of social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Mystic McAfee also predicts that banking Trojans will become even more sophisticated, perhaps by gaining the ability to interrupt legitimate transactions and make unauthorised withdrawals without being detected. Malware in email attachments, a common ploy in targeted attacks, is also expected to increase.

Meanwhile, botnets - the main currency of cyberattacks - are likely to move further away from reliance on command and control servers towards a peer-to-peer architecture that's more resilient against takedown efforts.

All these predictions more or less follow on from current trends. The one new highlight in McAfee's threat report is the prediction that HTML5 will give "cybercriminals new opportunities to write malware and prey on users." The upcoming web mark-up technology is meant to reduce reliance on proprietary browser plug-ins for Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Sun Java. The standard is still a work-in-progress, but elements of the technology are already supported by Google Chrome, a fact that could spawn a new line of hacking attacks, McAfee warns:

HTML 5 holds all the promises that today’s web community seeks - primarily that of blurring and removing the lines between a web application and a desktop application. HTML5-based attacks will become even more tempting once the Google Chrome Operating System is released. (It’s scheduled for second half of 2010.)

Google Chrome OS is intended for use with netbooks, and HTML5 enables not only a rich Internet experience, but also offline applications. Another motivation for attackers is HTML5’s anticipated cross-platform support, which will allow attackers to eventually reach users of many mainstream browsers.

McAfee's 2010 Threat Predictions report can be downloaded here as an un-Firefox friendly PDF. ®

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