This Time, Cell Phone Virus Is for Real

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.