Mobile viruses yet to travel Down Under

Despite the worldwide attention given to the threat of virus infection on mobile phones little has actually happened in Australia - even the antivirus vendors are currently labelling them as 'proof of concept'.

Last week Finnish Internet security vendor F-Secure released an alert stating the Cabir virus had been discovered in 20 different countries around the world (Cabir is expected to be the largest of some 50 different mobile phone-based viruses). But the trove of viruses propagating through Bluetooth-enabled portable gear has largely missed Australia.

The antivirus vendors are even playing down the presence of mobile phone viruses in Australia; however, in the same breath they note that it is still important to be secured against such a threat. Many agree that the current 'opt-in' design is limiting their spread.

Sophos Australia senior technology consultant Sean Richmond said malicious code is popping up in phones because users download ringtones from unscrupulous Web sites where the tones cost less - not because the virus is being 'imported' into the country.

Richmond added that apart from the disguised ringtones, a lot of the worms or Trojan malware are passed on as antivirus programs.

In August last year the first Cabir infections were noted in the Phillippines and since then reported to have popped up in 12 other countries including Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, China, India and the US.

Trend Micro security expert Adam Biviano agrees Cabir is a proof of concept virus.

"I don't think Cabir has had any local [Australian] infections as yet - it is more a proof of concept virus but phones are evolving in a similar fashion to PCs in terms of sophistication and vulnerabilities - at this stage of the game the viruses are not cross-platform," Biviano said.

"[Spread of the virus] is protected by the limited function of the phone - if the power of the phones double every two years then there will be a day when cross-pollination will occur.

"One impact now from MMS-relayed viruses is that it impacts the user from the hip pocket because if you are infected and spinning out MMS messages you would get a big bill at the end of the month - if you take a step back and look at the motives for malware on a PC, 70 percent of them are driven by profit. If this equates to mobile phones then the driver for profit is to get the phone to dial a premium number service like an international or 1900 number."

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Michael Crawford

Computerworld
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