The bad guys lurking in the digital shadows are as active as ever, and smaller businesses aren't safe just because they don't trade in state secrets.
That's the overall message from Chris Larsen, head of Blue Coat Security's research lab, who spoke with me recently about the key trends and threats that small and midsize businesses (SMBs) need to keep tabs on in 2011.
First, the good news: "Most SMBs are not going to have the sorts of secrets that the Chinese military would be after, or the U.S. government if they were behind Stuxnet, or whoever you want to speculate on your conspiracy theories there," Larsen said.
So what should smaller organizations worry about?
"If I were an SMB, I would be more concerned about what I call mass-market malware," Larsen said. "Those are the sort of attacks that are launched fairly indiscriminately by the bad guys just trying to infect whoever they can, and then they will sift through the list of computers they've infected and try to sort out higher value targets."
If an attacker realizes they've gained access to a finance staffer's computer inside an SMB, they are likely to concentrate their efforts there rather than, say, a less fruitful consumer account. Recent reports have found that malware volume doubled in 2010, with more than half of all online attacks caused by automated toolkits.
"For the bad guys, it is a much bigger score to hit an SMB computer that belongs to the corporate accountant, and they've got a couple hundred thousand dollars in their bank account, whereas a typical home user might have a couple thousand dollars," Larsen said. "That's where they're going to focus."
Smartphones and mobile devices are a growing concern for systems administrators and security folks alike, Larsen said, even those with strong network protections already in place.
"Now you've doubled or tripled the number of infection vectors you need to worry about and the tools you have available to deal with those platforms aren't mature yet," Larsen said. He added that a true cloud security initiative is likely needed because it's too difficult to have client-side apps protect every type of device and platform. "It's not a desktop metaphor anymore."