Bold Predictions for 2012 (Part 2)

In Part 2 of our look at what you can expect in the coming year, faint rumblings out of Japan suggest that one prediction from Part 1 of this article has already come true. If the very real prospect of becoming an innocent casualty of war isn’t enough to make you run backward toward the year that just passed, these bold predictions reveal how hackers will develop an even stronger sense of camaraderie, and how mobility is sure to become a four-letter word. And if you thought spamming and Internet scams made it personal in 2011, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

How about that? 2012 wasn’t even seven days old when news out of Japan this week revealed some eerie premonitions of the things to come and earmarks of a bold prediction made one week ago.  Engadget, ZD Net and other media outlets are reporting that the Japanese government has been working in concert with Fujitsu since 2008 to develop a powerful ‘cyber weapon’ – a piece of software that, upon the detection of a cyber attack (such as DDoS, for example) tracks the attack back to the source.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Sure, until you consider that the software also attacks and disables every machine it finds along the trail. The goal, Engadget reports:

“is to stop the spread of a malicious piece of code by finding and shutting down, not just the source, but all middleman PCs that are also now potential hosts. In some admittedly extreme scenarios this weapon could potentially spiral out of control, taking out far more computers than intended.”

Hmm… Botnets are nothing more than large numbers of unsuspecting computers carrying out their attacks at the behest of the infector and ignorance of the computer’s owner. Japan’s little toy, while it sounds like it might be fun to take for a spin, could have the unpleasant and unprecedented effect of being the cause of some serious collateral damage. Casualties of war? Here’s a tip for everyone: while you still have a chance, give that fave desktop or laptop of yours a great big hug before it’s too late.

1. Hackers of the World, Unite

Robin Hood met Mafia Boy last year as hacktivism took center stage. Indeed, 2011 was an entertaining year for anyone who followed the exploits of Anonymous and LulzSec. The drama unfolded like a kabuki play born in the mind of Ken Kesey and brought to life by a troupe of mimes with Tourette Syndrome, and there were even a few arrests along the way to make this reality show really…ahem… arresting.

Prediction: We will see some new hacking activity from these groups, with some high profile web takedowns in the process. While that’s not a stretch, this is: hacker groups like Anonymous and LulzSec will grow in size substantially, resembling an ‘occupy’ type movement that will take the war online. The civil and social unrest of 2011 will turn to face the financial behemoth that is the Internet.

2. Mobility Means Vulnerability

If we learned anything about spam in 2011, it’s that spam is like that proverbial bum of a brother-in-law who’s been living in your basement for the past two years. It’s not going away, good luck making it work for you, and you will be out-of-pocket at some point. Spammers continued to use every means at their disposal in 2011, with SMS spam becoming a real pain in the neck. Security flaws in the two most popular smartphone platforms – iOS and Android – just accented what we already suspected: that spammers and purveyors of malware had taken their show on the road.

Prediction: 2012 will see a massive increase in mobile spam, and mobile devices will become the swords upon which we will live or die unless we get mobile security under control.

3. It’s Nothing Personal…Well, Actually, It Is

A significant development in spam and phishing in 2011 was the way in which the scam artists were getting smarter; you know, smarter in much the same way that a chunk of igneous rock living at the bottom of a fetid riverbed is smarter than a rotting patch of lichen hanging for dear life to the side of an oak tree. Like it or not, the scambags are wilier, finding new and innovative ways to pick your pocket without actually residing in the same time zone.

Prediction: The scambags will become even cleverer in their assaults, finding new methods to lull people into a false sense of security. How this will occur remains to be seen, but our bold prediction is that it will most likely involve highly targeted, multilevel campaigns where the scammer will use detailed knowledge of the targets, and multiple contact methods like email, phone, SMS and even snail mail to enact their evil schemes.

Written by Malcolm James


  1. exchange email archiving · January 11, 2012

    Little bit apocalyptic picture, but great post.

  2. Malcolm James · January 11, 2012

    It IS 2012… :)

  3. Nate · January 12, 2012

    Mobility Means Vulnerability – does this specifically relate to the vulnerability of the computing platform (such as cloud computing) or the hardware / software (the smartphone itself)? I’m keen of getting a new smartphone this year. I think I’ll buy the latest iPhone 4s. Aside from personal use, I will also utilize this phone to access my work emails, files, and other data. My company has a cloud computing portal that stores all work-related files.

    My biggest concern with this setup is security. I’m very aware of several vulnerability issues mobile devices bring – spams and viruses plus hacks. I’m just not sure if cloud computing would be more stable or less secure if I use my smartphone also at work. Can you give me advises or points to consider regarding this matter?

  4. Malcolm James · January 12, 2012

    Hi Nate,

    To answer your first question, it’s a little bit of both. Cloud computing presents security concerns since the data is ‘out there’ in the cloud, but as long as proper security procedures have been adhered to and there is sufficient security in place, you can expect it to be about as safe as your LAN/WAN. Smartphones are a different issue, since they provide several things to watch out for. The two biggies – Android and iOS – have both been shown to be susceptible to threats. I myself am a recovering iPhone user. I have several Android devices and have purchased security software for all of them. Furthermore, Android allows you to disallow the download of software from unverified vendors, something which provides a little additional peace of mind.

    Since you’re looking at the iPhone, however, as long as you’re careful about what you download and adopt the same approach as you would with your computer (don’t open e-mail attachments from suspicious sources, think twice before responding to anything – e-mail or SMS, take the same precautions when browsing the Web that you would when sitting at your desk), you should be fine. Really, the best advice I can give about mobile devices connecting to a company network: first, treat it as you would any PC in the office. Like PCs, it has an IP address and a MAC address, so ensure that its activity is monitored like any other device. Second, ensure that it’s used properly. User error is a key concern for any network and the only reason unsafe attachments get opened.

  5. Harry Belaude · January 16, 2012

    I think the first point made here has a huge potential for possibility, especially considering the war against SOPA. If that bill passes, there’s going to be a high number of American users who will lash out by striking fast and hard on whichever group happens to catch their ire. It doesn’t help that in this phase, support for or against the bill has been very public on both sides.

  6. Yardley Coleman · January 18, 2012

    Have you considered some variables here relating to the Stop Online Piracy Act (also known as SOPA) and its effects to the World Wide Web, tech-based businesses, and Internet users in general?

    Your predictions about hacking, spamming, phishing attacks, mobility, and online security are nothing compared to SOPA. If this bill is passed and will become a law, it will have a tremendous impact to all of us. It will signal the end of the Internet and free speech.

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