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F-Secure's Top 7 Predictions for 2013 (If the Internet as We Know It Still Exists)

SAN JOSE, CA -- (Marketwire) -- 12/12/12 -- A seismic shift in who controls the Internet? Another Mac malware outbreak? Smart TVs being highjacked for a DDoS attack? Whatever 2013 may bring, it's sure to be an interesting year. F-Secure Labs shares its expectations on what will be in store.

1. The end of the Internet as we know it?

"Depending on the outcome of an important conference taking place now in Dubai, a lot of things could happen in 2013," said Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure Labs. That event, the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), could have a major impact on the Internet as we know it. "The Internet could break up into a series of smaller Internets," continued Sullivan. "Or it may start to be funded differently, with big content providers like Facebook and Google/YouTube having to pay taxes for the content they deliver."

The WCIT event is a meeting convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to finalize changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty. In attendance are regulators representing governments from around the world, not all of whom are interested in Internet freedom. There is concern that some regimes would want to shift control of the Internet "from the geeks, and give it to governments," stated Sullivan. New measures are also being proposed in the name of Internet security that privacy advocates suggest would mean the end of anonymity on the Internet.

2. Leaks will reveal more government-sponsored espionage tools

"It's clear from past leaks about Stuxnet, Flame, and Gauss that the cyber arms race is well underway," said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure Labs. While we may not always be aware of nation-states' covert cyber operations, we can expect that governments are more and more involved in such activity. In 2013, we'll most likely see more leaks that definitively demonstrate this, and from countries who haven't previously been seen as a source of attacks. As the arms race heats up, the odds of leaks increase.

3. Commoditization of mobile malware will increase

The Android operating system has solidified in a way that previous mobile operating systems haven't, extending from phones to tablets to TVs to specialized versions of tablets. The more ubitiquous it becomes, "the easier to build malware on top of it and the more opportunities for criminals to innovate businesswise," commented Sullivan. Mobile malware will become more commoditized, with cybercriminals building toolkits that can be purchased and used by other criminals without real hacking skills. In other words, malware as a service, for Android.

4. Another malware outbreak will hit the Mac world

2011 saw scareware called Mac Defender, and in 2012 Flashback took advantage of flaws in Java. The Labs predict 2013 will bring another Mac malware outbreak that will have some success within the Mac community.

"The author of the Flashback Trojan is still at large and is rumored to be working on something else," said Sullivan. "And while there have been smart security changes to the Mac OS, there's a segment of the Mac-using population who are basically oblivious to the threats facing Macs, making them vulnerable to a new malware outbreak."

5. Smart TVs will become a hacker target

Smart TVs are plugged into the Internet, they've got processing power, and since they typically aren't equipped with security, they're wide open to attacks. Adding to their vulnerability is that unlike home computers, many smart TVs are directly connected to the Internet without the buffer of a router, which deflects unsolicited traffic. Also, consumers often don't change the factory default username and password that have been set for web administration, giving easy access to hackers.

"It's very easy for hackers to scan for smart TVs on the Internet," said Sullivan. "When found, they only need to use the default username and password, and they're in." 2012 already witnessed LightAidra, a breed of malware that infected set top boxes. 2013 could see smart TVs being used for such purposes as click fraud, Bitcoin mining, and DDoS attacks.

6. Mobile spy software will go mainstream

2013 may see a rise in popularity of tracking software, and not just for parental control purposes. There has already been growth in child safety apps that monitor kids' activities, for example, their Facebook behavior. "Of course this kind of software can also be used to spy on anyone, not just kids," shared Sullivan. "The more smartphones there are, the more people will be seeking out software like this -- to find out what their ex is up to, for example."

7. Free tablets will be offered to prime content customers

Tablets and e-readers are all the rage, and more and more often in closed ecosystems such as the iPad with iTunes or the Kindle with Amazon. As the Kindle price keeps dropping, the Labs predict that 2013 may bring a free e-reader or tablet for prime customers of companies who charge for content, like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. "Closed ecosystems are more secure, but you have to trust the provider to protect your privacy," stated Sullivan.

F-Secure -- Protecting the irreplaceable

While you concentrate on what is important to you, we make sure you are protected and safe online whether you are using a computer or a smartphone. We also backup and enable you to share your important files. Our services are available through over 200 operators around the world and trusted in millions of homes and businesses. Founded in 1988, F-Secure is listed on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki Ltd.

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