Virus threat to mobile users

Virus threat to mobile users

Viruses are a growing problem as people are starting to realise that they can make money by creating viruses for mobile. In the PC world viruses were initially about showing your friends that you can write better ones, but this is not the case in mobile.

Criminals on a PC have to persuade people to give their credit card details to make any money out of them, but on mobile it’s much simpler because of the way services are billed. One emerging type of mobile virus is one that sends messages to a short code from the handset and accumulates high bills for the owner of the phone.

There have been cases where 250 multimedia messages have been sent from a phone in one day without the person knowing until they saw the phone bill. This type of virus can also be programmed to send messages less frequently so that the user doesn’t easily notice it is happening, even when they receive the bill.

The problem of mobile viruses is not on the same scale as on PC – at least not yet – but recently we have seen an increase in the number of mobile viruses. In 2007, there were about 100,000 cases of mobile viruses per month and now operators are removing about 2.5 million viruses from their networks each month. Luckily, many of these are removed before they hit customers’ phones. However, regardless of operators’ efforts, between 150,000 and 200,000 subscribers on each network are affected every month.

Business users are most vulnerable to mobile viruses because users from one company would have shared an address
book, which makes it easier for the virus to spread. Furthermore, most business users don’t see their own phone bills and wouldn’t notice if there was an unusual number of SMS or MMS sent.

Although it is only a small percentage of an operator’s subscriber base that is affected, it is often their most important ones.
We are still in the early days of this problem and there isn’t a standard view of who should take the responsibility. In the PC world you typically swear at Bill Gates if your computer gets a virus, you never blame BT for having given you the connection. In the mobile world, you don’t blame Nokia or the operating system; it’s usually the operator that you blame.

 Operators are increasingly realising that they need to do something about this. Messages go through their networks and they can block messages that look like viruses. The market has evolved a lot, which is also making it more difficult for operators to stop viruses. Two or three years ago operators were trying to block files, but as sending files though mobile networks has become more common, there is a danger that they would prevent useful files being sent.
So far, mobile has managed to escape one annoying problem from the PC world – spam. It hasn’t taken off as a major problem on mobile because of the money you have to pay to send messages, while on the PC emails are free.

However, there are viruses that can get to a phone and start sending messages from it en masse. This way the person wanting to spam doesn’t have to pay for it, because the oblivious sender is the one billed for all the messages.

These types of viruses are also on the increase. There has been a significant rise in the past six months as people are realising they can make money this way.

Written by Mobile Today
Mobile Today


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