Mobile virus rings in

Dubbed "Timifonica," the Visual Basic Script (VBS)-based email chain letter affects mobile phones. So far, the worm has not affected mobile users anywhere else around the globe, said Mikko Hypponen, manager of anti-virus research at F-Secure.

Hypponen said that the worm is unlikely to spread because it is designed to target customers of the Movistar telephone company. The worm activates by delivering SMS (short message service) text messages of 160 characters or less to random GSM (general standard mobile) phones widely used in Europe.

Mobile users that fell prey to Timifonica were connected to the SMS gateway operated by Movistar.net, according to officials at anti-virus vendor Kaspersky Labs. The gateway transfers email messages to SMS, much like text page messages. The worm spreads by emailing itself to all addresses in Microsoft Outlook and then moves on to Movistar via which it sends as many SMS messages to a set list of 10 to 12 random number prefixes as the amount of recipients listed in the Microsoft Outlook address book.

The worm does not erase or destroy any types of files but features more of a nuisance nature. It is important to note that Timifonica spread by email not by telephone or wireless device.

Hypponen suggested that Timifonica was created to deliberately spread propaganda about the steep prices and consumer tactics of Telefonica, Spain's largest telecommunications operator. Movistar is a brand of Telefonica.

Hypponen predicted that Timifonica could signal the arrival of a new breed of wireless, pervasive devices and that mobile phone worms and viruses may appear much earlier than people originally believed.

"This shows the way virus writers are looking into these types of possibilities," Hypponen said.

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