TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Mobile Phone Virus Found in United States

Mobile Phone Virus Found in United States

Lisa Minter (
19 Feb 2005 09:49:40 -0800

By Spencer Swartz

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The world's first mobile phone virus "in the
wild" has spread to the United States from its birthplace in the
Philippines eight months ago, a security research firm said on Friday.

The virus, called Cabir, has spread slowly into 12 countries and marks
the beginning of the mobile phone virus era, which could one day
disrupt the lives of many of the world's 1.5 billion mobile phone

The biggest impact of the relatively innocuous virus, found in about
15 variations so far, is draining mobile phone batteries, said Mikko
Hypponen, director of Finnish anti-virus research company F-Secure

Hypponen said Cabir was found on Monday in a technology gadgets store
in Santa Monica, California, when a passing techie spotted a telltale
sign on the screen of a phone in the store.

"It's interesting (the Cabir variant) has now been found in the United
States, but it's not the end of the world," said Hypponen.

The mobile-virus threat will grow in the future as virus-writers
become more sophisticated and phones standardize on technologies that
make it easier for viruses to spread across not just specific devices
but the whole industry.

The danger is small at the moment, in part because of the range of
handheld technologies. This is unlike the personal computer world
dominated by the Windows operating system made by Microsoft Corp.

Also, many handheld device makers have recently released new mobile
phones equipped with anti-virus software.


The store owner's phone had also been infected, Hypponen said. Both
devices were Nokia <NOK1V.HE 6600 smart phones, which combine phone
and computer functions, like e-mail. Nokia is the world's biggest
mobile phone maker.

Analysts say the various features in smart phones make them more
vulnerable to viruses than voice-only phones.

Hypponen said it was likely other devices in the area were also
infected by Cabir, although there was no confirmation of that.

Unlike computer viruses that spread quickly around the world
via the Internet, Cabir spreads slowly because it travels only over
short distances through a wireless technology known as Bluetooth. It
also requires a user to restart the phone after it has been exposed
for the virus to take hold.

In cases where Cabir spread to different countries, an infected phone
has typically been carried by the user to another country. Cabir has
been found in countries ranging from China to the United Kingdom.

In November, another virus program known as "Skulls" aimed at advanced
mobile phones was sent to security firms, not to consumers, as a
so-called "proof of concept" to alert them of the virus writer's

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