Nokia Taps Symantec for Smart-Phone Security

Building on a previous partnership, Symantec will pre-load the Nokia Series 60 smart phones with its Mobile Security software line.

Security specialist Symantec Corp. Wednesday announced an agreement with the worlds largest cell phone maker, Nokia, to pre-load its Series 60-based smart phones with its Mobile Security software.

The software is customized for the open-source Symbian mobile device operating system, which runs Nokias standard applications on the Series 60 phones.

The announcement follows a partnership of more than two years between the two companies, in which Symantec, based in Cupertino, Calif., supplied security software for Nokias Communicator product line.

Nokia has four pages worth of specifications describing its own security-related software posted on its Web site. Nonetheless, it decided to outsource security for its newest smart phones.

"Two of the reasons why Nokia selected Symantec for this is because, first, weve been working closely together for two years on their [Nokia] Communicator phones with success, and second, because our software includes both a firewall and anti-virus protection," Sarah Hicks, Symantecs vice president of mobile and wireless solutions, told Ziff Davis Internet.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead details here about how Nokias e-mail platform is challenging BlackBerry.

Hicks said that since cell phones are fast becoming a repository for more and more personal information and more types of data are being stored in the devices, it takes higher-level security software to protect them.

"Consumers are storing a lot more photos, e-mail, IM conversations—even videos—now that are valuable to them. They are increasingly at risk from malware threats. Within enterprises, the data is even more valuable—things like sales contacts, price lists, confidential e-mail and IM conversations have to be protected within the devices and in connected networks," Hicks said.

Hicks said one of the biggest enterprise security issues involves Bluetooth devices—the Wi-Fi ranges of which continue to expand as the devices become more sophisticated.

"A hacker can scan a geographic area for a Bluetooth device that is open and not hidden," Hicks said. "That is one way into a network that can prove very damaging if someone were to let go some malicious code there."

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Symantecs AutoProtect feature runs continuously in the background, watching for malicious code in SMS (Short Message Service), EMS (Enterprise Messaging Server), MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), HTTP and e-mail files, the company said. Users can also manually scan applications and file archives. Additionally, a built-in firewall blocks suspicious incoming and outgoing connection attempts on the phones LAN/WAN connection.

Symantec Mobile Security for Symbian OS protects smart phones from wireless threats by safeguarding a phone as soon as it is installed, automatically turning on virus protection and closing vulnerable ports, the company said. Its virus protection defends against viruses, worms and Trojan horses, automatically removing any it finds.

"This is a big step forward for Symantec," wireless industry analyst Mike Thelander of Signals Research told Ziff Davis Internet.

"The Communicator series was a relatively low-volume seller. But these Series 60 phones are big sellers—there are about 50 million smart phones already out there, and theyre all hot items.

"Thats small potatoes when you think that overall there are about 2 billion cell phones being used right now, but that helps Series 60 in the security process," Thelander said.

"A Trojan horse developer, for example, has to write to a specific platform and user interface. Relatively, there are only a small percentage of these Symbian phones out there, and with the strong security Symantec will provide, that combination will be very good for the consumer."

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...