Symbian Says Skulls May Not Be Malware

The company says an alleged Trojan on a Symbian-based Nokia phone-which limits functionality and replaces display icons with images of skulls-could be nothing more than a poorly written application.

Symbian Ltd., the London-based maker of the Symbian operating system used on high-end smart phones from a variety of manufacturers, says reports of malware may be premature.

According to a statement released last week, the company says theres little to indicate that the alleged "Skulls" Trojan is really more than just a poorly written application. The report of malware targeted at the Symbian-based Nokia 7610 phone spread quickly, but there was no evidence that the software was able to spread itself or even infect phones on its own.

According to the Symbian statement and user reports, the software must be installed intentionally by the phones user. To do this, it must be downloaded from a distribution site, after which the user must go through a number of steps—including ignoring a security warning—before the software installs.

Once installed, the software, called the "7610 Extended Theme Manager" when downloaded, replaces screen icons with images that resemble skulls and limits the functionality to simply making and receiving phone calls.

While the software does disable most functions on the phone, its not clear that its actually malware. According to the Symbian statement, the phones functions are interrupted when the skulls replace the normal icons and disrupt the rest of the menu system.

Symbian is said to be working with anti-virus maker F-Secure to confirm whether the software is really malware. F-Secure already makes an anti-virus packages for smart phones that use Symbian software, including the Nokia 7610.

The skulls software apparently infects only the Nokia 7610 phone. Other phones from Nokia, Motorola or Sony Ericsson are reportedly unaffected. While the Symbian statement says its possible that other phones using the companys Series 60 OS could be affected, it apparently has not happened yet.

A company spokesperson also said smart phones running the UIQ interface, a pen-based operating system, appear to be unaffected.

The skulls alert is not the first for Symbian. In June, the first actual phone virus was reported when Russian anti-virus maker Kaspersky Labs reported the Cabir worm was spreading. Cabir was less hardware-specific than Skulls and apparently would run on any Symbian-equipped phone.


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Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...