McAfee: attacks coming for infrastructure, digital home

McAfee says that the Internet's infrastructure and home entertainment centers will increasingly become hacker targets.

Online criminals looking for new areas to attack in the next few years will find green fields in the Internet infrastructure and the digital home, researchers with McAfee's AVERT labs said this week.

McAfee offered its take on the top security trends for 2007, at a press event in San Francisco, saying that well-known problems like phishing, spam, bots and rootkits are on the rise.

But in the years ahead, new areas will be top concerns, said Craig Schmugar, virus research manager at McAfee's Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team (AVERT) labs. "In the short-term, it will be the infrastructure side of things," he said. "In the long term, it will be digital entertainment."

Schmugar said that the recent flaw in Windows Domain Name System (DNS) servers, which was exploited in a small number of online attacks, is a good example of things to come. These servers are a critical part of the Internet's infrastructure, used to convert the domain names users type into their browsers into the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses used to identify computers on the Internet.

Microsoft patched the DNS flaw in April, shortly after the attacks began.

McAfee also expects to see hackers focus more on Wi-Fi attacks as PC users become accustomed to connecting to wireless networks wherever they go. "We haven't heard of any real-world attacks, but that's likely to become a bigger issue, especially with municipal Wi-Fi," Schmugar said.

Some security experts have warned that public Wi-Fi could be used to set up "man-in-the middle" attacks, where a criminal sets up a malicious wireless network and then intercepts online communication between the victims and any of the Internet servers they try to reach.

Researcher Christopher Soghoian recently demonstrated how such an attack could be used to install malicious software on a Firefox browser.

And the digital home will eventually attract home invaders too, Schmugar predicted. As consumers get more comfortable downloading and playing movies and games on home entertainment computers, that may also give hackers a new way to attack, he said.

McAfee says that video on the Web is already being hit with attacks. In March, the company reported that the MySpace page for the French band Mamasaid had been infected and was downloading malicious code hidden in a QuickTime file.

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Robert McMillan

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