Mobile Phone Viruses Slow to Cross the Pond
I've seen a number of articles lately about the menace of viruses that spread over wireless phones, but most of the outbreaks I've read about have all been in Europe and Asia.
So I started to wonder how big of a deal this is for wireless customers here in the U.S. Yesterday, I had a chance to talk with William Dudley, senior director of product management for Mobile 365 Inc., the Chantilly, Va.-based company responsible for moving roughly 80 percent of text messages between the major domestic wireless carriers.
Dudley said Mobile 365 began monitoring inter-carrier messages for viruses earlier this summer and that it each day the company filters about 200 copies of CommWarrior, a mobile-phone virus that spreads by sending copies of itself through multimedia messaging service (MMS) -- a text message format that also can handle video and audio -- to every number listed in an infected phone's address book. The virus also spreads via Bluetooth to certain phones within a short range of an infected handset.
So far, 99 percent of the cell phone viruses Mobile 365 has seen have been CommWarrior, Dudley said. CommWarrior infects only Symbian Series 60 phones. (My suspicion is that the majority of the other mobile viruses that have been written about were submitted directly to the anti-virus companies by their creators.)
Some days, the virus-laden mobile messages are sent by a handful of infected phones. Over the past three days, for example, Mobile 365 tracked one phone sending 137 messages infected with CommWarrior. Last week, however, the company tracked some 33 handsets sending a total of 209 infected messages.
Dudley says he doesn't see mobile phone viruses as much of a threat here in the U.S. at the moment.
"I just don't see this as being a huge problem yet...it's more of a nuisance for the relatively few people who get them," Dudley said.
Still, he said, the number of mobile viruses filtered by his network continues to grow each month, and mobile viruses could become more problematic if virus writers can figure out a way to make them spread across a wider range of phones.
"I don't think most people are yet in tune with this threat ... as they are with keeping viruses off their desktop machines," Dudley said, noting that viruses like CommWarrior generally don't spread completely on their own: Each version of CommWarrior requires the recipient to agree to install a file before the virus can infect the phone. "The bottom line is people still need to be vigilant."
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