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McAfee: Smartphones, Apple top '11 crime targets

URL shorteners and geolocation services are also expected to be hotbeds of spam, scams, and viruses in the new year, according to the security firm.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

Security firm McAfee expects malicious activity in 2011 to target smartphones, URL shorteners, geolocation services like Foursquare, and Apple products across the board, according to a report released today.

"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," Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs, said in a release announcing the report. "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."

In other words, the security infrastructure surrounding popular new services and devices--and more importantly public awareness of potential threats that people may face when using them--may not be up to par with better-established technologies. Take URL shorteners, for example. Because it's so easy to mask longer URLs with them and because Twitter users have grown accustomed to clicking them without much thought, McAfee expects that they will continue to be targets for spam, scams, and viruses.

Social networks will remain hotbeds of malicious attacks, McAfee predicted, but geolocation services like Foursquare and Facebook Places will see new prominence. "In just a few clicks, cybercriminals can see in real time who is tweeting, where they are located, what they are saying, what their interests are, and what operating systems and applications they are using," McAfee noted. "This wealth of personal information on individuals enables cybercriminals to craft a targeted attack."

As for hardware, mobile devices (particularly those used on corporate networks), Internet TV platforms like Google TV, and devices running Apple operating systems are anticipated to be prime targets.

McAfee also said that the saga of WikiLeaks, the controversial classified-document repository that dominated headlines around the world late in 2010, is likely to spawn copycats in 2011: the security firm expects "politically motivated attacks" to be on the rise.