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Top Online Security Threats of 2013 -- and How You Can Protect Yourself

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Next year will be the year of the mobile security threat, according to Internet security software giant McAfee, based on the predictions report it released today of the leading security threats expected in 2013. With online technology rapidly moving from computers to the palms of our hands, cybercriminals and hackers are evolving their methods to fit the times. Whether it's the new Windows 8 OS or the trendy HTML5 browser language, cybercriminals will be stepping up their game in 2013 to capitalize on the newest technology.

So what can consumer expect to see in the way of cyber threats in 2013? We read through the report and focused on some of the biggest threats you should look out for in 2013, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Mobile threats will increase.
"Mobile threats are starting to increase as we get closer to 2013," McAfee Threat Researcher Ryan Sherstobitoff pointed out. McAfee predicts that both OS X and Android will be big targets in the mobile world in 2013.

There are a number of different attacks that mobile users need to be weary of in the coming year. This includes mobile worms on your phone that buy malicious apps so that the creators of the malware will profit, as well as ransomware kits that allow criminals without programming skills to extort payments from you. To help protect yourself, it is important to make sure that your phone's operating system is always up-to-date, as well as installing mobile-specific Internet security software on your phone. One of the more worrisome mobile threats that will be increasing in 2013 is malware that blocks security updates to your phone, leaving it vulnerable to known malware that it should be blocking. This malware is more common in smartphones that have been "rooted" or "unlocked" since those phones generally don't receive software updates from providers, so try to avoid using a phone that's been rooted or unlocked.

Windows 8 is the next big target.
Windows 8 is a cash cow for cyber criminals, so even though the new Windows 8 is more secure, they will figure out a way around the increased security so they can reap the rewards, according to McAfee. They predict that the most popular ways criminals will attack is by phishing and other techniques that will either trick users into revealing information or install malicious programs on the user's computer. This means that if you do upgrade to Windows 8, do not solely rely on the operating system to keep you safe. Always make sure that your Internet security software is up-to-date as well as all of your programs.

"Big-Scale" attacks on businesses will be a focus.
"Hacktivism" from groups such as Anonymous have been popular in 2012, but McAfee predicts that such attacks will only grow in 2013. Even those hackers not interested in hacktivism have started attacking companies for the soul purpose of causing as much havoc as possible. And it doesn't help that the technical aspect of hacking a company is so easy for hackers.

"If attackers can install destructive malware on a large number of machines, then the result can be devastating," the report explains.

Most of these hackers are experts at what they do, so while making sure you have the right security measures in place is a smart move, in these instances, the best way to help protect yourself and your users is to make sure all of your data is backed up off-site. It would be a good idea for users and businesses to look into an online backup service that incrementally backs up their system, so if an attack were to occur, all important data will still be safe.

HTML5 will become a new challenge for hackers.
HTML5 has become the new darling of the standard language of Internet browsers. McAfee reports that 75 percent of users in North America and 83 percent in Europe use a browser that supports HTML5. With this new technology comes new challenges for cybercriminals. Original HTML relied on plug-ins that hackers used to exploit browsers. HTML5 doesn't rely on plug-ins, making those types of malware obsolete. The hackers' new focus will be on the added functionality of HTML5, which creates a larger attack surface for hackers.

"Powerful JavaScript APIs that allow device access will expose the browser as websites gain direct access to hardware," the report explains.

Other threats to watch out for.
Other threats that will increase in 2013 include the Citadel Trojan, which is based off the Trojan horse Zeus that steals banking information, and can now better target specific victims or groups of victims. Another threat on the rise will be "Snowshoe Spam." Though these annoying marketing campaigns that send hundreds of spam messages aren't malicious like the other threats discussed in the report, they have been increasing over the past two years and are "currently one of the biggest problems in the spam world," write McAfee researchers.

While this list includes some of the top security threats expected in 2013, it obviously can't predict every piece of new malware to watch out for, so it's always a good idea to make sure your computer has the most up-to-date operating system, you computer is backed up and you have an updated version of Internet security software on your computer to help protect against any security threats that might pop up.

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