One of the biggest mistakes anyone could possibly make is assume that things will not get worse. The rate at which cybercrime is progressing is truly overwhelming. We cannot remain confident that current law and order statutes as well as state-of-the-art technical protection methods are sufficient to keep cybercrime in check. The cybercrime genres and the prowess of criminals we are seeing now may be just a shadow of what they will develop into.
It is certainly hard to predict the future, especially in the fast-paced and radical era we live in. However, certain educated guesses about the future can be made without much difficulty if we observe recent trends.Evolving Malware
What does the future hold for malware?
According to many malware research groups, an anti-virus campaign alone will not be successful in curbing malware growth.
In Steve White’s "retrospective", on viruses from 2000-2010 (which is a fictional account of the virus landscape from 2000 to 2010), he has predicted that while viruses will increasingly be used to spread the attack from one computer to another, social engineering will be applied to cause the initial outbreak.
The recent trend of viruses attacking mobile devices suggests that future malware attacks may be carried out wirelessly, hence making the air infected with deadly, computer viruses, just like their biological cousins.
Most malware attacks are intended against a network of computers. Personal computers (PCs) are rare virus targets as they are generally single task systems. However, due to the increasing functionalty of personal computers as multi-tasking systems, they will tend to inherit security vulnerabilities which can be exploited to trigger malware attacks.
Therefore, it is sad that many personal computer users today compromise on their security, by failing to install critical utilities such as anti-virus and spyware removal programs.
It also looks likely that virus writers will combine the attacks of viruses and worms. Today, most viruses and worms wage disjointed attacks on computers. However, it is a possibility that in the future, viruses and worms can from a deadly pair. While the worms traverse across networks of computers, the viruses will dislodge themselves from the worms and launch individual attacks on the computer.
A deadly payload
The rate at which systems are infected with viruses are increasing dramatically, while the methods of attack are also becoming more widespread, ranging from e-mail worms, trojans, instant messaging viruses and Web site malware. So far, the only thing missing from most widespread and dangerous viruses is an extremely deadly payload.
In the future, as virus-writing toolkits become more sophisticated, viruses could cause permanent damage to computers, making it impossible to recover files and programs lost because of the attack.
Next generation intelligent malware will have the capacity to spread across multiple platforms, such as personal computers, servers and mobile devices. These intelligent malware will be able to coordinate with each other to lauch massive Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.The evolution of Cybercriminals
In the past, it was much harder to be an efficient cybercriminal due to lack of easy access to computers and computing knowledge. This is why old-guard and highly intelligent hackers like Kevin Mitnick are so rare and dangerous. The sheer complexity and skill needed to hack into a computer in the past proves this.
However, nowadays it is much easier to be a criminal. This is due to the increase in the number of computers to attack or use as tools and the increase in the number of people to exploit. Some universities are even giving courses on “ethical hacking” and this knowledge is actually being used for unethical purposes. More people are finding it easier than ever before to learn how to hack and write malicious codes.
It is clear then that the next few decades will see more and more people deviating from the “right” path and immersing themselves in the world of cybercrime which offers them so much more.
Trends suggest that criminals will become more insidious. Large-scale and damaging acts such as Dos attacks will become less popular as they are easy to detect and thwart with better security systems. Instead, newer and more indirect methods of crime like phishing and Trojans will become much more popular. These will be a major threat to the individual’s privacy. Hackers and virus writers will cause less direct damage but will rake in greater profits. Such insidious cybercrimes will be like a tumorous growth knawing away at the very roots of society.
A very similar analogy to the cyberrealm at the turn of this century is the Western frontier in America at the turn of the 18 th century. There was an age of brave exploration which was inevitably followed by an age of exploitation and suspension of human ideals. Those who arrived earlier either paved the road for the well-being of their followers or took advantage of those who were not as adapted to the climate or knowledgeable about the customs there. Eventually, industrialization brought the whole country forward. The incentives for committing crimes decreased in amount while the victims themselves generally became capable of defending themselves. It must be pointed out that crime has certainly not been wiped out in the US but it is no longer as fearsome and widespread as it once was.
The Net is a relatively new phenomenon and it will take time for it to be fully incorporated into society as another one of its institutions and kept in check just as efficiently by the law as the other facets are. Just as crime will never be wiped away, cybercrime too is always here to stay. Criminal activity is a constant in the human equation. The variable, however, is the counteractive action taken by society and the individual to ensure that it REMAINS constant and does not spiral out of control. That includes you, the viewer. There is no point in reading all these if no follow-up action is taken.
All we have done is pierce the darkness and mystery surrounding cybercrime. It is up to you to bring in the light and drive it out altogether.