A computer security firm has advised PC owners to keep their computer safe from new security threats in the new year. The experts revealed that the way people use the Internet and their computers has evolved significantly and so have the cyber criminals.

They have changed their tactics accordingly.

“It really speaks to a Web 2.0 world. People communicate differently today, people transact and pay their bills differently today, and that drives today’s criminals,” ABC Science quoted David Marcus, director of security research and communications for McAfee Labs, which this week released its 2010 Threat Predictions report, as saying. “Bad guys tend to go where the masses go,” he added.

Cyber criminals increasingly leverage the news of the day to attack unsuspecting consumers.

Whether it is celebrity deaths or natural disasters, Marcus says criminals will find a way to conceal their malware in the headlines you want to read.

According to McAfee, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites - will become major targets for cyber criminals.

Web users often tend to trust Web links and e-mail messages sent by friends and family.

However, online attackers are learning how to exploit that trust, by delivering malware that appears to come from Facebook friends, Twitter followers and friends’ e-mail accounts.

“When you consider there are 350 million users of Facebook, that’s a pretty target-rich environment,” said Marcus. McAfee also warns that URL shorteners, like those used to accommodate Twitter’s 140-character limit, make the cyber criminal’s task even easier.

Symantec said in its recent report on 2010 threats, URL shortening services will “become the phisher’s best friend.” “Because users often have no idea where a shortened URL is actually sending them, phishers are able to disguise links that the average security conscious user might think twice about clicking on,” the company said.

As consumers continue to bank online, Marcus said attacks on financial sites will likely increase in 2010. Some criminals have already learned how to bypass the banks’ second layer of protection.

McAfee noted one new technique that involves interrupting a legitimate transaction to make an unauthorized withdrawal, while simultaneously checking the user’s transaction limits to fly below the radar and avoid alerting the bank.

McAfee said another target for online crooks this year will likely be Google’s new operating system, Chrome. As the “new kid on the block,” McAfee predicts attackers will attempt to break the code and prey on consumers.

McAfee expects it to be Adobe products, especially Flash and Acrobat reader.

“It really kind of speaks to Adobe’s popularity,” said Marcus. “When you’re searching online for a document, chances are it’s a PDF you’re going to download.”

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