Threat to mobiles from rapid virus growth

3 Oct 2006

It has taken mobile malware just two years to reach a stage of evolution that PC malware like viruses and Trojan Horses took 20 years to arrive at, Kaspersky Labs claimed this morning.

Kaspersky Labs said it currently adds 10 Trojans written for Symbian mobile phone operating systems (OS) — the most common OS for smart phones — to its anti-virus database every week.

“The trickle of new malicious programs for Symbian that began in June 2004 has become a constant stream which threatens to become a torrent,” warned Aleks Gostev, senior virus analyst with Kaspersky Labs.

However, many mobile users consider mobile malware as a problem which hasn’t actually happened yet or believe that it’s an issue that doesn’t really concern them.

Gostev warned that mobile viruses don’t exist in some parallel world; they are part of the here and now. Every time you use public transport, go to the cinema or go to the airport, your mobile phone is potentially under attack.

“It took computer viruses over 20 years to evolve; mobile viruses have covered the same ground in a mere two years,” Gostev said. “Without doubt, mobile malware is the most quickly evolving type of malicious code and clearly still has great potential for further evolution.

“There’s a long way to go before people understand as much about mobile viruses as they do about PC viruses,” Gostev warned.

In a report entitled Mobile Virology, Kaspersky charted the first proof-of-concept mobile virus Cabir back in June 2004 to today’s far more destructive mobile virus families.

Today’s mobile viruses can: spread via Bluetooth and MMS; send SMS messages; infect files; enable remote control of the smart phone; modify or replace icons or system applications; install ‘false’ or non-operational fonts and applications; combat anti-virus programs; install other malicious programs; block memory cards; and steal data.

By John Kennedy