McAfee Expects Increased Apple Attacks in 2011

Security firm McAfee expects increased attacks on Apple devices in 2011, spurred in part on Apple’s growing success with iPhones and iPad in the business market. In the company’s 2011 Threats Predictions (published by the L.A. Times), McAfee said that it also expects social networking services to be increasingly leveraged by the bad guys to lure us to malicious Web sites and to track our whereabouts.

“Although historically not a frequently targeted platform by malicious attackers,” the report said, “the Mac operating system is very widely deployed. McAfee Labs saw malware of increasing sophistication that targets Mac this year; we expect this trend to increase in 2011.”

Part of the problem, as McAfee sees it, is the lack of concern about malware and other security threats to Apple’s products, which, “historically [have not been] a frequently targeted platform by malicious attackers.”

Accordingly, “The lack of user understanding regarding exposure on these platforms and the lack of deployed security solutions make a fertile landscape for cybercriminals.”

The firm said that it expects to see an increase of Mac botnets — networks of computers that have been compromised by the bad guys — to increase, and that Trojan Horse attacks will increase, as well. Trojan Horses are malicious applications that are disguised to look like something else, or included unbeknownst to users with another software installer.


In the mobile space, McAfee readily acknowledged that security threats have been slow to materialize, despite long-standing concern in the security field about the issue. “We expect attacks to erupt at any time, yet they never quite seem to happen,” the company wrote.

Citing more rootkits for Android and remote jailbreaking tools for iPhone in 2010, McAfee said that 2011 is likely to be the year when the mobile space hits a tipping point and does become the subject of security attacks.

“The widespread adoption of mobile devices into business environments combined with these and other attacks is likely to bring about the explosion we’ve long anticipated,” the company wrote. “Given our historically fragile cellular infrastructure and slow strides toward encryption, user and corporate data may face serious risks.”

On a similar note, McAfee said that, “the popularity of iPads and iPhones in business environments and the easy portability of malicious code between them could put many users and businesses at risk next year and beyond. We anticipate threats of data and identity exposure will become more pronounced.”

Social Networking

And if all this isn’t enough to scare you into securing your Mac, PC, Android, iOS, or other device, McAfee believes that services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places that announce where you all to the world are going to be increasingly used by cybercriminals to get you good.

“There’s no trick to imagining how cybercriminals and scammers can potentially leverage this information,” the company wrote. “In just a few clicks cybercriminals can see in real time who is tweeting and where, what they are saying, what their interests are, and the operating systems and applications they are using. It then becomes child’s play to craft a targeted attack based upon what the bad guys have just learned from these services.”

Lastly, the firm warned that URL shortening services are going to be increasingly leveraged by cybercriminals. There are currently some 3,000 URLs that are shortened every minute, and that this “is a huge opportunity for abuse.”

The report added, “We see a growing number of these used for spam, scamming, and other malicious purposes. This nominal convenience will have a tremendous impact on the success of cybercriminals and scammers as they leverage the immediacy of social media over e-mail for even greater success.”