Local developer tackles new mobile virus market

Expect bigger and nastier malware

The battle against the mobile virus might only just be taking off internationally, but here in New Zealand one company is already heeding the call to arms.

Auckland based SimWorks has been making software for cellphones to better co-ordinate users' address books. Co-founder Aaron Davidson says the company was looking for the next big issue to face the mobile world and began work on a mobile antivirus product even before the first viruses actually appeared.

Davidson says the biggest problem many companies face is simply a lack of awareness about the issue itself. He says the day of the mobile virus is yet to come but it will definitely get here.

"This year I would think we'll see a real cellphone virus that does actual damage and then people will sit up and take notice."

Davidson says the viruses that have been released to date are very tentative efforts and haven't really created much damage, but they are laying the way to bigger and nastier things.

"There are hundreds of viruses for the PC because the virus writers know how the PC works. There are very few programmers who know a lot about the way [cellphone operating system] Symbian works by comparison. That's changing every day, however."

Davidson says one particular virus writer appears to be concentrating on the Symbian operating system and has managed to find a way of slipping the infected files into a real program without damaging that application.

"That means the user will install the program and it will work exactly as it's supposed to but at the same time the phone is infected. That's very dangerous because it's very difficult to block the virus before it's installed." Davidson also believes the increase in the number of smart phones, combination devices that merge PDA and cellphone functionality, will only increase the incidence of mobile virus attacks, and for the IT manager that could be a nightmare, especially as more mobile users demand greater connectivity with the LAN. Add that to the telcos' introduction of 3G networks with faster download speeds and you have a recipe, potentially, for disaster, he says.

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