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Old Bore's Almanac: Predictions for 2007

Matthew Stibbe on the security issues that lie ahead

Last Christmas, I made some predictions about what would happen this year. I have to admit that I was not completely successful as a pundit.

However, it is interesting to look back at my prognostications because they cast an interesting light on what did actually happen last year.

Serious cyber-terrorist incident. No. Luckily. Just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it can't happen. I am keeping this on the list for 2007 and I hope I'm wrong again. The best-known example of cyber-attack on critical infrastructure was Vitek Boden's. He hacked into a computerised waste management system and released millions of litres of raw sewage into the environment of an Australian town in 2000. It really can happen and, from a terrorists' perspective, it has to be an attractive option.

Mass theft of identities by electronic attack. No. Instead, the banks have been handing out customer data willy-nilly. For example, the theft of a laptop belonging to a Nationwide employee put 11m customers at risk of identity theft, according to the BBC. The BBC also reports that in Lagos, you can buy stolen bank details for �20 a victim. With identity theft so easy, it hardly seems worth criminals' time to do anything clever.

Someone will sue Wikipedia over the publication of false data. No. At least, as far as I can tell. However, a co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, has set up a 'progressive fork' of the online encyclopaedia with more editorial oversight. The new site is called Citizendium.

Zero-day virus with a malicious payload. No. It turns out everyone is much more interested in making money than doing harm (although this is another option for terrorists).

DIY virus-writing toolkits. Yes. However, they already existed when I wrote my prediction. Hey, I had to get something right! Again, there are easier ways for criminals to achieve their goals. According to research by Trend Micro, you can get someone to write you a custom virus for as little as �500.

Government reverses course on identity cards. No. Despite the fact that security experts have already been able to hack and clone the latest electronic passports being issued this year in the US.

Incremental improvements in security. Yes. Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 is much more secure than its predecessor and it is wise to dodgy websites. Microsoft Windows Defender is clamping down on spyware. The Get Safe Online campaign goes from strength to strength and recently launched a new blog.

2006 is the year of internet telephony. Yes. Skype has grown hugely. However, we have not seen much virus or spam activity in this area.

Email encryption will become more widespread. No. I was sadly deluded and wildly optimistic on this. It is still too difficult for average users to encrypt their email. Actually, it is still too difficult for me to do it.

Predictions for 2007

So, to sum up: I got three predictions right out of a total of nine. I am a bit embarrassed really, although I would be pleased if I got those odds when picking lottery numbers. It has made me much more nervous about making predictions, so I'll confine myself to three new ones for 2007:

Microsoft Windows Vista will increase users' security even more once it is generally available at the end of January.

Spam, viruses, spyware and identity theft are not going away. However, they are getting more difficult, as Microsoft and others make the bad guys' job harder.

There will be more criminal prosecutions of online criminals. New legislation in the UK and elsewhere will make it easier for governments to prosecute the people who cause us all so much misery. Good news for us. Not so merry for them.

From me and everyone at bCentral: have a happy holiday and a safe and successful new year.

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