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Government-sponsored cyber attacks like Flame and Stuxnet to boom in 2013

12 Nov 2012
Flame code uncovered by Kaspersky

Symantec has predicted the emergence of state-sponsored malware like Flame, Gauss and Stuxnet will lead to a new era of cyber Cold War in 2013.

The security vendor warned that cyber conflict between nation states will become the norm in its 2013 predictions report released on Monday.

"In 2013 and beyond, conflicts between nations, organisations and individuals will play a key role in the cyber world," wrote Symantec researcher Kevin Haley.

Haley went on to cite the slew of government-funded attacks discovered over the past two years as key factors that will lead nation states to increase their focus on creating cyber weapons.

"Espionage can be successful and also easily deniable when conducted online. Any nation state not understanding this has been given many examples in the last two years," wrote Haley.

"Nations or organised groups of individuals will continue to use cyber tactics in an attempt to damage or destroy the secure information or funds of its targets.

"In 2013, we will see the cyber equivalent of sabre rattling, where nation states, organisations, and even groups of individuals use cyber attacks to show their strength and ‘send a message'."

Prior to Symantec's report, F-Secure security chief Mikko Hypponen had issued a similar warning about Flame malware's long term effect on the threat landscape, during an interview with V3.

Flame is advanced malware designed for cyber spying. It was uncovered by Kaspersky Labs targeting Iranian systems earlier in the year.

Related malware like Gauss and Mini Flame have also been subsequently discovered mounting similar cyber espionage operations.

Hypponen cited the influx of new malwares related to Flame as evidence that there are likely more government-sponsored threats still running in the wild.

Symantec said it expected a marked increase in the number of ransomware scams being mounted by cyber criminals in 2013.

"In 2013, attackers will use more professional ransom screens, up the emotional stakes to motivate their victims, and use methods that make it harder to recover once compromised," wrote Haley.

Previously, Symantec had revealed it uncovered a number of ransomware scams netting cyber criminals as much as $33,000 per day in its Ransomware: A growing Menace report from earlier in November.

Below the two major threats, Symantec also reported expecting to see a boom in the number of attacks targeting social media services, mobile devices and cloud systems.

Renowned British entrepreneur Mike Lynch also highlighted these three areas as key security risks businesses must address if they want to keep their data safe.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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