This Time, Cell Phone Virus Is for Real

By Carol Ellison  |  Posted 2004-06-19 Print this article Print

Updated: Opinion: It's heeeere ... an international team of security researchers has created a "proof-of-concept" cell phone virus, and this one is no hoax.

It had to happen: A computer virus has spread to cell phone networks. Kaspersky Labs issued an advisory Thursday on a network worm called Cabir that affects phones that use the Symbian operating system. Cabir uses the Bluetooth wireless peer protocol to propagate, copying itself to other Bluetooth devices as far as 30 feet away, depending on the environment. Hoax messages warning of cell phone viruses have been traveling the Web for more than two years. This time, its for real, but so far, that doesnt seem to be worrying device manufacturers.
A Nokia spokesman fielded my questions about Cabir with what Id describe as concerned optimism. "Weve always known that malicious software could emerge as an issue in mobile phones as these products became more sophisticated," he told me. "Still, its no free-spreading mobile virus. The good news about it is that its nothing malicious, but the most important thing is that prevention is pretty easy." He pointed out that it would take physical actions on the part of the user to accept an infected file that anyone would attempt to transmit. First, the user would have to accept a file transfer from an unknown source. Secondly, the user would be warned that the sender does not possess a recognize security certificate. So, prevention is easy, right? You just say "no" in the same way you say "no" to suspicious e-mail attachments. Anyone can do it. But will everyone do it? We wouldnt have virus infections today if everyone who should have known better than to open a suspicious attachment had heeded caution before curiosity. Next Page: Pondering the possibilities.

Carol Ellison is editor of's Mobile & Wireless Topic Center. She has authored whitepapers on wireless computing (two on network security–,Securing Wi-Fi Wireless Networks with Today's Technologies, Wi-Fi Protected Access: Strong, Standards-based Interoperable Security for Today's Wi-Fi Networks, and Wi-Fi Public Access: Enabling the future with public wireless networks.

Ms. Ellison served in senior and executive editorial positions for Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media. As an executive editor at Ziff Davis Media, she launched the networking track of The IT Insider Series, a newsletter/conference/Web site offering targeted to chief information officers and corporate directors of information technology. As senior editor at CMP Media's VARBusiness, she launched the Web site, VARBusiness University, an online professional resource center for value-added resellers of information technology.

Ms. Ellison has chaired numerous industry panels and has been quoted as a networking and educational technology expert in The New York Times, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CNN Headline News, WNBC and CNN/FN, as well as local and regional Comcast and Cablevision reports. Her articles have appeared in most major hi-tech publications and numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

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