Cybercrime has begun to mutate, reports USA Today. The profit motive for cyberthieves to break into computers to steal identity data or use processing power to carry out fraud schemes has never been greater. And as 3,000 hackers and security experts convened in Las Vegas for the Black Hat cybersecurity convention this week, computer users at home and at work have more reason than ever to worry about an intruder sneaking onto their hard drives.
Microsoft has relentlessly shored up Windows, the operating system running on 90% of desktop PCs. Hackers are now taking aim at Apple software, whose owners have yet to experience the full brunt of cyberintrusions all too familiar to Microsoft customers. But it’s coming. In 2004, hackers – many of them self-taught programmers who relish testing the limits of computer code – blanketed the Internet with more than 30 Windows worms, self-spreading programs that scour the Internet for computers to infiltrate. Today, with Windows more secure, hackers are flushing out vulnerabilities in popular software applications. Cyberthieves follow in their wake, gravitating to weak points in any program that’s widely used – Web browsers, media players, spreadsheets – targeting individuals and small groups of users. The most popular new routes: Microsoft’s ubiquitous Internet Explorer Web browser and Office suite of programs, because they’re the most widely deployed programs.