MMS phone virus marks dawn of new era

The first mobile phone virus using the Mobile Messaging Service (MMS) is finally a reality, and anti-virus experts are predicting a dangerous future. CommWarrior, discovered this week, sends itself as an MMS to addresses it finds an infected telephone directory.

"It was always a question of when this would happen and now its finally here," said Kevin Hogan, senior manager at Symantec security response. "We are likely to see an acceleration of this technology now. Interest [in developing mobile virus code] has moved into ability [to do it]."

CommWarrior currently only affects Nokia 60 phones and is, as yet, not spreading in the wild. But experts predict it will only be a matter of time.

"It's not yet out in the wild. But I expect pockets of activity as it spreads between friends," said Hogan. "It's the first example of someone using telephony technology rather than hijacking Bluetooth or other bolted-on devices."

Like Cabir and Skulls, two other mobile phone viruses, CommWarrior can also spread via Bluetooth connections.

The virus uses a variety of messages with taglines such as, "Norton AntiVirus Released now for mobile, install it!" And "Dr.Web, New Dr.Web antivirus for Symbian OS. Try it!" If the virus reaches a device not running Symbian Series 60 software, the program does not run. Even when it does, it still needs a user to actively accept the download, which may help slow its spread.

"It's not panic time yet," said Hogan. "But the binary code is quite easy to find. It can be adapted, although with more difficulty than Cabir or Skulls because of its sophistication."

According to Hogan and Finnish anti-virus firm F-Secure the virus originated in the East. Russia is mooted, but Slovakian groups have apparently been targeting mobile phones recently.

Earlier this week SC reported that mobile phone viruses could cripple networks within years. Anti-virus vendors are suggesting that MMS viruses could be the beginning of that. Mobile phone viruses have been increasingly prevalent since mid-2004 when the first mobile virus, Cabir, was discovered.

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