An independent developer for Palm handheld computers has created a Trojan horse program that can wipe all the files off a handheld device.
Palm spokeswoman Julia Rodriguez acknowledges the existence of the program, which first surfaced last week, and says the company doesn't know of any "reports that any Palm user has been affected" by the program.
The developer, who goes by the name "Ardiri" on a Palm user Web site (www.palmstation.com), says he designed it to "clean up any redundant data files."
Instead, according to the discussion thread on the Web site, the program, which masquerades as a game called "Liberty," can, once executed, wipe out all the files on the infected device.
Ardiri says he had no intention of widely releasing it but did provide copies to a "few friends."
After that, Ardiri says in a posting last week, the Trojan horse started to proliferate throughout the Palm underground. Ardiri says that after realising the potential extent of that distribution -- the Palm developer community numbers more than 80,000 -- he posted warnings about it on the PalmStation.com and PalmGear.com Web sites.
Ardiri adds, "After many hours of thinking, I regret even considering what could be done with this application . . . and giving it to anybody on Palmchat was a big mistake."
Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Santa Clara, California-based Palm, dismisses the impact the Trojan horse program would have on Palm users.
"All you have to do to get rid of it is a 'hot reset' and resync with your PC" to remove the program from an infected handheld device, Rodriguez says.
She adds that Palm is well aware "that any electronic device is susceptible" to hacking and that the company is "working to make sure any such attempts are detected and intercepted and avoided." Rodriguez declines to provide specific details.
Network Associates, a virus-scanning software company also in Santa Clara, says it has developed and started to distribute a new line of VirusScan Wireless security products that should provide protection for Palm computers as well as other handheld devices running Microsoft's Windows CE and Symbian operating systems.