Mobile phone virus found

First it was PCs, now it looks like mobile phones could be under attack from viruses. The first one has been found, but is it a major threat?

  • E-Mail
By  Chris Anderson Published  January 30, 2005

|~||~||~|Computer viruses that spread between mobile phones could soon be a major threat to our communications. The first virus, known as Cabir, has already been discovered, and was brought to the attention of anti-virus firms last year. It is actually harmless, but is proof that mobile phones are at risk from virus writers. Experts believe Cabir was developed by an international group that specialises in creating viruses to show no form of technology is safe from its attacks. Cabir is a worm, transmitting itself via Bluetooth between phones that use the Symbian operating system, found in several models, notably Nokia. Launched every time the handset is turned on, it results in the display showing the word ‘Caribe’. The virus then scans the area for other phones to infect, sending a copy of itself to any that it finds. There’s no harmful effects at the moment, but future variants of the worm could delete phone numbers or send text messages without the user’s knowledge. Yet despite the discovery of the virus, some experts claim that it shouldn’t pose a major threat just yet. “It is a milestone in the timeline of viruses, but technically is not that special,” says Graham Cluely, a senior technology consultant at Sophos Anti-Virus. His belief is based on the fact that as it requires Bluetooth technology to travel, Cabir is already limited to a range of 30 metres. Also, it is dependent on someone within that range having Bluetooth turned on, and they would also have to accept the download of the virus which would be preceded by a warning that the source of the file is unknown. He continues: “We haven’t had any reports of people seeing these viruses in their everyday use. The only reports we’ve seen documented are anti-virus researchers sending them to each other in their labs.” Matt Piercey at F-Secure disagrees. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first attempts at something more sinister over the next few months,” he says. And he could be right; modified versions of Cabir have already started to appear, with the worm disguising itself as a security management utility. This suggests that the Cabir source code, like many other computer viruses, is freely available — possibly online — allowing less sophisticated virus writers and malicious hackers to modify it and release their own versions. And with the trend for most computer viruses targetting Microsoft operating systems, what about the possibility of new viruses spreading to smartphones or PDAs that use Microsoft Windows Mobile? Excel documents, for example, can be emailed from a computer to a phone, putting the handset at risk. Whatever the future of these viruses and however quickly they develop, companies like F-Secure believe the threat should be taken seriously. “In the same way we protect our PCs, we need to protect our phones,” says Matt Piercey. This would involve users downloading a firewall to the handset. Most anti-virus companies, including F-Secure, Trend Micro and Symantec offer software for mobile phones.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code