Anonymous may beg to differ, but security firm McAfee has predicted that 2013 will see the decline of the online hactivist collective, while the threat of a high-profile terrorist cyber attack grows.

Anonymous in decline in 2013
McAfee has predicted that 2013 will see the decline of online hactivist collective Anonymous.

Anonymous, speaking to IBTimes UK last month, said it was bigger and stronger than ever, and had increased its numbers during 2012, despite not carrying out the kind of high-profile attacks which were carried out in 2011.

Now security firm McAfee has published its Threat Predictions for 2013 and in it, the company predicts the decline of Anonymous:

"Sympathisers of Anonymous are suffering. Too many uncoordinated and unclear operations have been detrimental to its reputation. Added to this, the disinformation, false claims, and pure hacking actions will lead to the movement's being less politically visible than in the past. Because Anonymous' level of technical sophistication has stagnated and its tactics are better understood by its potential victims, the group's level of success will decline."

However it's not all bad news for Anonymous according to McAfee, as the company believes collaborations with other groups could give them some success in 2013:

"We could easily imagine some short-lived spectacular actions due to convergence between hacktivists and antiglobalisation supporters, or hacktivists and ecoterrorists."

Hactivism

McAfee points out that Anonymous is just one aspect of the hactivist movement and another "more powerful" force could emerge in 2013. "Anonymous is just one aspect of hacktivism. Another more powerful force is people with strong political motivation and high availability over a long term."

Politically-motivated groups could also begin to organise themselves into "cyberarmies" and their actions "will improve in sophistication and aggressiveness. They will fight among themselves, certainly, but their favourite targets will be our democratic societies each time we denounce the extremist governments they support."

Looking at higher-level cyber-attacks, McAfee expects nation state-sponsored cyber espionage, such as the development and use of Stuxnet and Shamooon, to continue in 2013.

Speaking about terrorists, McAfee says that even if a particular group has never carried out a cyber attack before, they use the web to seek funding, search for information on people and targets, and prepare their assaults.

McAfee also predicts the development of the next stage in cyber attacks, a combination cyber-physical attack - an online attack carried out in conjunction with a physical attack. If a group can remotely disrupt a critical
infrastructure, such as a defense or communications system, a conventional attack could more easily cause more damage.

"We have no evidence that such a terrorist event will occur in 2013, but today our fears of one are not just fantasy."