Computer hackers(1) will open a new front(2) in the multi-billion pound "cyberwar" in 2007, targeting mobile phones, instant messaging and community Web sites such as MySpace, security experts predict.
As people grow wise to email scams(3), criminal gangs will find new ways to commit online fraud, sell fake goods or steal corporate secrets.
"The attacks are becoming more sophisticated(4)," said Dave Rand of Internet security firm Trend Micro. "It's all about making money. And they're making a lot of it," he told Reuters.
In 2007, hackers will be scouring(5) social networking sites such as MySpace to gather information for more focused attacks on people's computers.
"It is definitely an area that is ripe for more exploitation by malware (malicious(6) software)," said Ed English, Trend Micro's Chief Technology Officer for anti-spyware.
People could find their computers infected with viruses that secretly record all their keystrokes(7) or send out millions of spam email messages.
Identity theft fraudsters will trawl(8) through sites which allow people to leave their pictures and personal details, finding targets for "phishing" attacks – fraudulent(9) emails aimed at tricking people into revealing credit card numbers.
Hackers will also target people using instant messaging services or making telephone calls over the Internet in 2007, Trend Micro said.
Powerful new mobile phones and portable computers will also be targets as thieves try to bypass(10) tight security to steal emails, documents or contacts, security firm McAfee said.
"Modern mobile phones are in essence(11) miniature portable computers," the company said in its annual crime report. "Mobile devices present a serious challenge."
McAfee warns that spying on businesses will become more sophisticated. Criminals are hiring students to plant as sleepers in companies and huge amounts of data can be removed on small, portable memory sticks.
"Corporate espionage(12) is big business," its report says. "Data is often priceless property. Stealing trade secrets, information or contacts is a lucrative(13) money-spinner(14) for cybercriminals."
Security firms say Internet crime can be hard to combat because it embraces different continents and time zones.