The first truly destructive mobile phone virus has been discovered by anti-virus researchers.
Fontal.A causes infected mobile phones to crash when the handset is rebooted, making it impossible to use until disinfected.
The virus attacks Nokia 60 Series phones using the Symbian operating system. Anti-virus vendors see Fontal as an interesting development, but do not yet rate it as a major threat.
"It doesn't propagate itself," said a spokesman at Russian anti-virus company Kaspersky. "After being installed into the system mistakenly by the user, it substitutes some system utilities and fonts with its trash files. As a result, the phone stops working.
The spokesman said his company had not received any user reports regarding Fontal.A infection. Unlike other mobile phone viruses Fontal doesn't spread itself via Bluetooth connections or MMS messages. Finnish anti-virus firm F-Secure suggested the most likely source of infection would be "to get the file from IRC or Peer to Peer fileshare and install it on the phone."
The crashing effect is caused by Fontal trying to download the corrupted file "Kill Saddam By OID500.sis."
The development is the latest in a long line of mobile phone viruses which began when SC reported Cabir in June last year and recently grew into CommWarrior, which spreads via MMS messages.