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Targeted Cyber Attacks to Rise in 2011, Security Experts Say

A Symantec Security Operations Center is seen in a handout photo.Reuters/Symantec

Targeted cyber attacks will pose a growing threat to companies around the world this year after the Stuxnet worm hit Iran's nuclear program in 2010, security software maker Symantec Corp said on Tuesday.

"Last year was the year of high-profile targeted attacks. We will see so many more," said Sian John, security strategist at Symantec.

So-called targeted attacks succeed as most consumers avoid clicking on suspicious links in spam emails, but open files that seem to arrive from legitimate senders.

"They are more challenging, but the return is higher," John said.

In total, the number of measured Web-based attacks rose 93 percent in 2010 from a year ago, boosted by proliferation of shortened Internet addresses, Symantec said in its annual threat review.

"Last year, attackers posted millions of these shortened links on social networking sites to trick victims into both phishing and malware attacks, dramatically increasing the rate of successful infection," Symantec said.

Social networking sites are increasingly important platform for attackers as their popularity among consumers is rising fast.

The software company said attacks on leading mobile platforms were also set to increase after a 42 percent rise in mobile vulnerabilities last year.

"The major mobile platforms are finally becoming ubiquitous enough to garner the attention of attackers," Symantec said. "Attackers are really following the consumers here."