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Bob Sullivan, of Red Tape Chronicles, recently published an excellent article titled “Ten Things Web Users Should Fear in 2011.” While not specifically written about real estate, you are reading this blog on the internet, and web use increases exponentially every month worldwide. Coldwell Banker offers many products geared specifically to web users, and is very proud of the technology it offers. We think the issues and problems Sullivan raises are worth our own post to alert our readers.

Here are his points with some explained, and we urge any internet – including a mobile device that is web-enabled – to read the entire post: http://redtape.msnbc.com/2010/12/ten-things-web-users-should-fear-in-2011.html

“When security experts look back at 2010, they will see a major turning point in the world of cyberscares. The virtual and the real collided in new, dramatic ways during the past 12 months, and the Internet will never be the same.

“Gone for good is the glamour of annoying outages caused by hackers sending e-mail attachments and launching Web page attacks. Now, computer criminals are being credited with stalling a rogue nuclear power plant program, and with bringing world diplomacy to its knees. Things are getting serious.

“A more subtle, but perhaps more immediate danger for Web consumers surrounds the explosion of off-the-PC Internet applications. The Web is on nearly half of U.S. cell phones now, but that’s only the beginning. It’s also on TVs, DVD players, tablets like the iPad and even kitchen appliances. What’s the risk? How many consumers do you know that are ready to purchase anti-virus software for their blu-ray players? Predictions have been made for a long time about mobile Web viruses. Given the explosion of new, unprotected gadgets, 2011 appears to be their year.

“1. Geolocation

Even the most dimwitted of stalkers can turn tools [like Twitter and Foursquare] into playgrounds…Criminals will catch up to this during 2011 and I hope you don’t end up in the headlines. Use location services with extreme care. One tip: Have a friend ‘stalk’ you to see how easily a stranger could follow you, then adjust your usage accordingly.

“Physical stalking is far from the only risk, however. Computer criminals can observe a person’s traveling behavior to craft incredibly convincing phishing e-mails or other cyberattacks.

“2. New Media Platforms

The threats could be simple, such as fake Web pages that pop up on TVs, asking users to submit personal information. Or they could be complex, such as theft of stored passwords, or even hijacking of the machines for use in botnets.

“3. Mobile Phones

Until now, cell phones — even smart phones — have operated in very controlled environments. But the proliferation of the open-application environment of Android, and the “jailbreaking” of iPhones, has created a much more hacker-friendly world for cell phones.

“4. Mobile Gadgets

The explosion of mobile gadgets this year will create both a new playground for bad guys, and a new incentive to target operating systems that also control smart phones…The market for tablet-based antivirus software, meanwhile, is virtually non-existent…The combination of tablets and smart phones will prove to be a target-rich environment for the bad guys.

“5. URL shortening

URL shortening services (like bit.ly) are great, but they are also an incredibly easy way for hackers to send you to an unexpected Web page. By definition, the shortened URL obscures the real hyperlink [so it becomes problematic to make sure the link you click is to the destination you intend]. McAfee says there are more than 3,000 URLs being shortened every minute online. That’s a lot of hacker potential.

“6. Friendly Fire

This year, next generation viruses like Koobface will make it easy for hackers to personalize their attacks, using tools to gather information about you leading to specially crafted e-mails and other attacks.

“7. The end of spam. What?

‘Social media connections will eventually replace e-mail as the primary vector for distributing malicious code and links,’ McAfee says. ‘The massive amount of personal information online coupled with the lack of user knowledge of how to secure this data will make it far easier for cybercriminals to engage in identity theft and user profiling.’

“Tweets from “friends” will lead to widespread infections. Facebook chats will trick people into giving up personal information, or clicking on malicious links. Promiscuous friending will allow bad guys to connect with all of your friends, creating an easy attack vector with a wide footprint. All of this will happen in an environment where consumers tend to trust more than traditional Web pages or e-mail — in other words, their guard is down, and attacks will be up.

8. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a marketing term that describes a world where people store data and use applications on remote computers, rather than on their own desktops or laptops… As the cloud moves into mainstream usage, hackers will follow. ‘Cloud services will become prime targets for hackers wanting to gain access, not just to a specific company’s data but possibly to multiple victims simultaneously,’ warns ISCA Labs, a computer security company.

“The cloud will also raise fascinating and troubling legal issues for users. Say you’ve stored all your family photos, or all your company’s data, on a cloud service. What happens if there’s a billing dispute, like those that arise with cable companies and cell phone providers? And what if that cloud provider refuses to release your data until you pay that hefty early termination fee? The best defense against that: Backing up all your data on your own computers, a rather un-cloud-like activity…

“Meanwhile, many in the computer security world see widespread and lasting implications for cloud computing from the WikiLeaks incident…What if a provider like Amazon decides it doesn’t like my data? Conceptually, if WikiLeaks can be cut off, anyone can.

“9. Hactivism outbreaks

The spreading of previously non-public information, against a government’s will, is a new form of attack, and one that can’t be stopped by added improved packet filtering. The only way it can be stopped is by government officials taking a huge step backward and following the advice of many lawyers I know — never type anything that you wouldn’t want to see in the newspapers. Expect a lot more secure phone calls and a lot fewer “secure” e-mails between government officials…[WikiLeaks] has proven the ability of one small organization to evade a powerful government’s ability to shut it down. That will inspire other groups.

“10. More Targeted Malware, Backed by Nation-states

McAfee warns that companies of all sizes that have any involvement in national security or major global economic activities should expect to come under pervasive and continuous … attacks that go after e-mail archives, document stores, intellectual property repositories and other databases.”

While not all of these items will relate directly to your use of your own computer or mobile device, we want you to be safe. Again, read the entire article for a more thorough analysis of cyberspace in 2011.