The makers of Japan's advanced smartphones are enhancing measures to keep viruses at bay.

The Japanese government passed a law on June 17 that makes the creation or distribution of a virus a crime and while that legislation is primarily designed for viruses that attack computers, it is also applicable to the variants targeting mobile phones.

The number of viruses aimed at smartphones is relatively small, but analysts say the threat is growing.

Tokyo-based Trend Micro Inc. reported the first virus attack on a smartphone running the Android operating system in August 2010. By the end of the year, the anti-virus software maker said, the number had grown to five but has since increased to 57.

The smartphone market is growing rapidly in Japan, with the number sold in 2010 leaping to 8.55 million units. Of that total, fully 57 percent use the Android OS, with iPhone representing 38 percent, down from 72 percent in 2009.

Manufacturers of the phones and anti-virus software firms have banded together to create a smartphone security forum that had its first meeting in late May.

As a result of the companies' commitment to keeping ahead of the virus creators, KDDI Corp. and NTT DoCoMo Inc., two of the largest Japanese phone companies that provide Android system smartphones, have begun screening applications before they are made available for users to download.

Software that does not meet their standards is excluded.

Japanese consumers who purchase new phones through NTT DoCoMo Inc will find software from US-based cyber security firm McAfee already installed, according to a June 18 Reuters report.

Google Japan Inc. has also warned its users not to download applications from sources whose security cannot be verified, while Softbank Mobile Corp., which is the carrier for the iPhone in Japan, introduced an anti-virus software service late last year.

In the same way as a conventional computer virus operates, a smartphone virus is able to access private information stored on the device, including e-mail addresses and passwords, and can pass that data on.