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Latest mobile phones need virus protection

Many tasks such as e-mails and web surfing that used to be the exclusive realm of computers have now shifted to phones.Unfortunately, that means viruses and Trojan horse program have also made the transition.

business Updated: May 07, 2007 09:47 IST

It's a brave new world for mobile phones as many tasks such as e-mails and web surfing that used to be the exclusive realm of computers have now shifted to phones.

Unfortunately, that means viruses and Trojan horse program have also made the transition.

These new viruses with names like "CommWarrior," usually runs unnoticed in the background, and send itself out as an MMS (a text message that includes data files) to numbers in the telephone book. CommWarrior can only be activated if a user accepts and installs it, which is why it's generally disguised as an update program.

Still, the danger is minimal compared to the kind of havoc viruses can wreak in computers.

"There's a lot of unnecessary panic," said Christoph Hardy, a spokesman for Sophos, a company that designs security software. An owner of an ordinary mobile phones, who uses it mainly for telephoning, has no need to worry.

Mobile phone viruses are aimed primarily at smart phones, mobiles with Symbian operating systems or ones with Windows interfaces.

Telephones meeting those standards are rare and their numbers do not warrant an attack.

"Viruses and Trojans targeted at mobile phones so far experiment with proof of concept," said Matthias Gaertner of the Federal Agency for Information Security Technology (BSI) in Bonn. In other words, the virus makers are trying to determine which forms of attack work.

"There is no current threat," says Gaertner. But that could change easily as the number of smart phones rises and the use of mobile Internet services becomes more popular with the spread of UMTS devices and sinking fees.

Hackers might take an interest in information people send back and forth via a mobile, especially when it comes to payment services that might provide information about bank accounts.

Thus, the BSI is already advising mobile customers to equip their devices with virus protection.

Hardy says the main danger these days is accidentally transmitting viruses. Users can prevent that in the same way as they block PC viruses - do not open unexpected mail attachments or attachments from unknown senders.

Mobile phones Bluetooth connections are another major potential security problem. Hackers can activate those connections without the knowledge of the phone's owner, warns Marion Stolzenwald, a spokeswoman for Vodafone.

A Bluetooth connection should remain "invisible" or "hidden." And unexpected offers to help install programs should always be rejected.