Czech hackers create first virus to infect mobile phones

Russian experts claimed to have discovered the world's first computer virus capable of spreading over mobile phone networks yesterday and said it was only a matter of time before mobile users were affected by more virulent viruses.

Russian experts claimed to have discovered the world's first computer virus capable of spreading over mobile phone networks yesterday and said it was only a matter of time before mobile users were affected by more virulent viruses.

A computer security firm called Kaspersky Labs said only one other company, US-based Symantec, had been sent the virus by anonymous hackers. The virus is not malicious but experimental, Kaspersky Labs said, but proved that mobile phones were vulnerable to computer-like viruses. The virus is in the form of a "worm" called Cabir, and targets high-end smart phones running the Symbian operating system such as the latest Nokia and SonyEricsson internet-capable models.

It appears as a security file which fools the user into launching it. Then the word "Caribe" appears on the screen of any infected mobile each time it is switched on, and the worm automatically scans for any other mobiles with a wireless Bluetooth connection within 30 metres.

When it finds one it sends a copy of itself, hence multiplying. It does not destroy files or damage other applications but does shorten battery life. Kaspersky Labs said the worm was probably created by a shadowy group of virus writers from the Czech Republic and Slovakia who call themselves 29a, and pride themselves on demonstrating that no technology is virus-proof.

"This is the first version of a network worm which propagates via mobile phones," Kaspersky's Denis Zenkin said. The danger, he added, was that malicious virus writers could be tempted to come up with something similar that deletes mobile users' phone directories and "hijacks''' the phone to send text messages to others.

He went on: "This is a warning for [mobile] users and network operators: that such things are not too far off."

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