Homeland Security Spells Out Coming Online Threats

DHS and NCSA warn of emerging threats for cell phones, more phishing scams


The top Internet threats for 2006 will include more attacks through instant messages and cell phones, as well as a boost in identity hacks against online brokerage accounts, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance predicted Wednesday.

By joining forces, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) hope to give consumers time to put additional protection in place on their PCs.

"Arming consumers with a list of emerging threats is just the first step to educating [them] about the ever-evolving online security environment," said Ron Teixeira, NCSA executive director, in a statement. "It is critical that we also empower users with the how-to practices to protect themselves against these risks."

Calling instant messaging networks "extremely vulnerable" and noting that cell phone malware is on the rise, the federal agency and the non-profit also predicted more "spear phishing," or targeted phishing attacks.

Other threats to expect, said the DHS and NCSA, include an increase in brokerage account break-ins. "Since the nature of online brokerage accounts makes it easy to transfer funds from various accounts outside the firm, online brokerage accounts are attractive targets for hackers and thieves," a warning posted online read.

NCSA, whose members include America Online, eBay, Microsoft, and Symantec, operates a site dubbed StaySafeOnline.org which offers consumer information on safe computing practices.

Among its recommendations, the group said consumers should have a firewall in place, install and keep up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and regularly update their computers' operating systems.