Mobile virus poses new threat to network security

The first network worm to penetrate mobile phones has been created by a group of eastern European virus writers. The worm, known as Cabir, had no malicious code attached and was sent to Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky Labs as a proof of concept.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  June 29, 2004

The first network worm to penetrate mobile phones has been created by a group of eastern European virus writers. The worm, known as Cabir, had no malicious code attached and was sent to Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky Labs as a proof of concept. Network managers should pay heed to the threat, however, and not just in relation to keeping their mobiles virus-free. The worm means there is one more potential avenue for networks to be penetrated. This is especially important as the number of wireless enabled phones and wireless networks grow. “As technology offers new backdoors into an organisation’s networks the threat should be analysed and a suitable response prepared,” says Justin Doo, managing director of Trend Micro Middle East & Africa. “When you consider the evolution of Cisco’s Network Admission Control (NAC), extending protection to this level of application will be vital in securing the access points of a network,” he adds. The worm is designed to work in smartphones running Symbian and Series 60 software, which is used to run millions of high-end phones. The virus scans the environment for other Bluetooth-enabled devices and tries to jump from phone to phone using this wireless connection. The virus sends itself disguised as a security file and must be accepted and installed by the mobile phone owner before the mobile is infected and the virus tries to spread to other phones. Mobile phone owners and network managers should not be too worried by the news. “This worm uses Bluetooth to spread and the technology is still not widespread,” says Denis Zenkin, head of corporate communications at Kaspersky Labs. “Secondly, it requires user intervention to infect a device. These two factors make markedly reduce the probability of being infected by this virus,” he adds. Although the Cabir worm is toothless, analysts warn that the virus could pave the way for more dangerous fare in the near future. “Cabir follows the usual pattern — a group puts out a fairly harmless proof of concept virus that others will mutate into more aggressive forms. I’m predicting we’ll see more destructive mobile worms and viruses in the wild within a quarter,” says Leif-Olof Wallin, senior programme director, Technology Research Services, Meta Group. The threat to network managers may be small but security companies are taking the development seriously. “Trend Micro is developing content security solutions for smartphone applications that will work independently of and in conjunction with Trend Micro's Office Scan Corporate Edition,” says Doo.

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