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Mobile phone viruses are set to increase in number and virulence, an anti-virus expert said. This is because cellphone manufacturers are putting in more applications and functionalities into newer, more complex handsets, which open more doors for virus writers to exploit.


“Users should be concerned about what’s on the horizon,” said Chong Yu Nam, a technical consultant with anti-virus company Trend Micro Inc. He also noted that cellphone viruses were being engineered to propagate faster.


“This is just the beginning,” Chong said, commenting on the Commwarrior.A virus that reared its head on Tuesday.


The appearance of this virus ushered in a new feature among cellphone viruses – besides spreading to other phones through Bluetooth wireless connections, the new virus also sends copies of itself via MMS (multimedia messaging service) to numbers in an infected mobile phone’s contact list.


Like Cabir, the world’s first mobile phone virus “in the wild”, Commwarrior.A affects phones that run the Symbian operating system with the Series 60 Platform user interface. Known affected models include Nokia mobile phones (7650, 7610, 6620, 6600, 3650, 3600, 3660, 3620, and the N-Gage), the Panasonic X700 and Siemens SX1.


Once a mobile phone is infected, the new virus’ continuous attempts at sending copies of itself via Bluetooth will cause the batteries to drain fast. But users of infected mobile phones will also be hit in the wallet, in the form of charges billed for the multimedia messages sent by the virus.


However, despite the virus' new method of propagation, “it’s still not very efficient at spreading itself,” said Chong. The user of a targeted mobile phone has to provide authorisation twice before the virus is installed. Trend Micro has received only one report of infection so far in the world – from a cellphone owner in the United States.


The virus also has a relatively small target to aim at. Phones affected by it make up only 1% of all cellphones in the global market.


Last year, 674 million cellphones were sold worldwide, according to international research firm Gartner. Out of the 14.6 million mobile phone subscribers in Malaysia, less than 1% own phones that are potential targets for Commwarrior.A.


But Commwarrior.A’s use of MMS suggested that mobile phone viruses were getting more sophisticated over time, said Chong.


Mobile operators are increasingly concerned over the rising threat. The cellular services business is a multi-billion ringgit industry, and viruses can cause loss of revenue for the operators if people start cutting down on cellphone use.


“It is the responsibility of the entire mobile industry to acknowledge that a real threat exists and to bundle antivirus solutions with the mobile devices they sell,” Maxis Communications Bhd said.


DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd chief technology officer Jon Eddy said the company would assist customers through user education activities and awareness programmes. Assistance is also available from the service centre.


Both Maxis and Celcom (M) Bhd have also offered to help users affected by cellphone viruses via their respective customer service centres.

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Guest Human

Okay, I don't use a cellphone EVER. So now you are going to have to excuse my ignorance when I ask this question?


Can't they have firewalls for cellphones??? or antivirus programs for cellphones??


I know it needs memmory for that, and I really don't know if the cellphones have that type of memmory for it or not.

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