Article: The Future of Cell Phone Viruses

by Tara Renee Settembre

Worms, hackers and spam, oh my Could they be invading your cell phone? Antivirus experts say it is possible and are questioning whether personal data entered into cell phones and PDAs can be stolen or infested now that minor security incidents are already being reported.

Such threats could include filling a phones TXT message box with unsolicited advertisements, changing default settings and gaining access to private information. Bluetooth connections were recently infected with a virus called Cabir, which jumped to other Bluetoothenabled cell phones and automobiles in the proximity.

Also a couple of months ago a hacker swiped the phone numbers of celebrities on Paris Hiltons cell. Yet, the mobile thief never even touched her Sidekick smart phone. Instead the hacker retrieved her cells recently dialed calls and incoming call list by hacking onto TMobile's server, which stores Hiltons phone information.

Michael Lane, a telecommunications specialist and PR representative explained, Some portion of your mobile phone data is backed up somewhere. What type of data and how much is almost exclusively dependent on the make and model of the cell phone.

Verizons server stores recently dialed calls for billing purposes, while other carriers mirror their clients complete mobile address book, in order to provide customer backup and recovery if a phone malfunctions, is lost or upgraded.

Antivirus experts believe that the problem of mobile viruses is more likely to happen when customers connect their phones to their computer to personally upload data or connect to the web and download content. This method makes you more susceptible to security threats, because it opens your phone up to internet viruses and hackers.

To prevent virus and security attacks, chip vendors, subscriber identity module (SIM) card manufacturers and mobilehandset companies are already engineering new security features for future editions of cell phones.

The mobile device management vendor SmartTrust, operates a platform that allows cellular providers to send overtheair (OTA) virus software updates and patches that can be both proactive and reactive to security threats.

The mobile phone has quickly evolved from a simple black box to something more akin to a mini multimedia centre. However, like with the PC, as these devices become more advanced, with increased connectivity, the potential for security threats from viruses and hacks become greater, said Tim DelucaSmith, communications manager at SmartTrust. He added that he believes mobile carriers must accept some responsibility in protecting their customers and their devices.

He warned, Ultimately, any virus attack would cause not only inconvenience for the user but damage to the carrier's brand.

Smith urged consumers not to panic and said that as of now, cell phone viruses are not an immediate threat. Published viruses, like Cabir, he said, impacted only a tiny percentage of users and nothing like the Trojans that cause global problems for the fixed internet.

With their multitude of functions, cell phones and Blackberrys are becoming more like mini portable computers, especially to smallbusiness owners, many of whom are putting the data of their lives on these devices. This is why consumers should start protecting their cellular phones as they would their home or office computer from internet viruses.

As time passes, the points of entry for viruses will increase, from storage cards to internet downloads and messaging services, said Smith.

He adds that technology alone will not prevent the spread of security threats, and that there is much to be said for simply raising employee awareness and discussing possible security risks.

Smith further speculated that in no time companies like MacAfee will be developing a virus scan for your Palm Pilots and PDAs just like the ones they already make for your computer. In all likelihood virus protection patches will soon be delivered to cellular devices over the air, like internet updates to your PC.

About the Author

Tara is currently going for her master's degree in journalism at New York University. She freelances articles for tristate publications and writes a daily blog, When Tara Met Blog

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