Smartphone virus, spam threats loom

* How to keep your mobile devices safe

How to keep your mobile devices safe

Industry analysts at a roundtable session at the recent Wi-Fi Planet conference in San Jose agreed that as smartphone usage escalates, so likely will mobile virus attacks. And In-Stat/MDR expects that global shipments of smartphones - converged, small-form-factor telephony/computing devices - will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 44% over the next five years.

The first mobile viruses emerged last June targeting the Symbian mobile operating system, followed by another in July that attacked devices running Windows Mobile for PocketPC. A popular method of mobile virus propagation is beaming the virus over Bluetooth connections. Most devices that support Bluetooth ship with the capability enabled by default; if you or your users are not using it, it is wise to disable it for security reasons.

Meanwhile, early this month, Trend Micro launched Mobile Security, software that provides anti-virus and anti-spam protection for short message service (SMS)-enabled mobile phones running Windows Mobile 2003 (available now) and Symbian 7.0 (available in January). The company says the software for these platforms will be free until June 30, 2005 (see link below).

And this fall, Nokia responded to attacks on its Symbian-based 6670 and forthcoming 9300 and 9500 smartphones by signing deals with anti-virus software vendors F-Secure and Symantec for subscription services.

Also be aware that an optional "wireless 411" directory service is poised to become available jointly from Alltel, Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Sprint and Nextel Communications early in 2005. From a voice-only, consumer-centric perspective where, in many cases, cellular phones are becoming the primary or only phones that people use, the directory service (for which carriers will likely charge a fee of about $1 per a lookup) has merit.

However, smartphone-style devices may also house corporate data and intranet connections, and SMS messages sent to these devices via their phone number could carry spam or viruses. It is highly advisable that enterprises purchasing converged devices for users "opt out" of the wireless 411 directory service and set a policy for end users or business units doing the purchasing to opt out, as well.

Learn more about this topic

Mobile phones: An ear full of worms

IDG News Service, 12/03/04

Nokia adds anti-virus protection to new smart phone

IDG News Service, 09/23/04

Trend Micro Mobile Security

Wireless directory draws cheers, jeers

Network World, 07/12/04

Wireless carriers state case for directory

Network World, 09/27/04

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.