More mobile anti-virus appears

Trend Micro will become the latest major anti-virus software company to provide protection against mobile phone viruses, with new...

Trend Micro will become the latest major anti-virus software company to provide protection against mobile phone viruses with the release today of Trend Micro Mobile Security 1.0.

Smartphone users will be able to download and use the new anti-virus and anti-spam software for free until June 2005. Mobile Security is said to protect mobile phones running the Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile operating systems against mobile threats, such as the recent Skulls trojan and Cabir worm, as well as filtering for SMS spam.

Todd Thiemann, director of device security marketing at Trend Micro, said the company hoped to attract hordes of new customers who would purchase or receive sophisticated new handsets as gifts over Christmas.

Like other anti-virus software, Mobile Security spots viruses by using signatures, in this case developed by Trend Micro. Users can also scan storage devices inserted into supported phones, or initiate scans of the mobile device manually.

Thiemann said new anti-virus and anti-spam signatures could be sent to the mobile device using GPRS, a wireless communication service for connecting mobile phones to the internet that is common in 3G devices. Alternatively, updates can be transferred using Microsoft's Activesync.

Mobile Security will support a wide range of devices that run the Windows Mobile 2003 or Symbian OS 7.0 operating systems. A version of the product for phones running Windows Mobile, including the Motorola MPx200, O2 XPhone and Orange SA SPV C500, is already available.

Trend Micro plans a version for phones that use the Symbian operating system by January, 2005, including support for the Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB P800, P900 and P910, and Motorola A920, A925 and A1000.

The company will also release a version of the software for mobile phones and PDAs running Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC-Phone Edition in January.

Version 1.0 will expire in June, when the company plans to have a software update available that will add new features including firewall and data encryption features. 

Trend Micro's anti-virus software for mobile devices follows Symantec's release of Symantec Client Security software for the Nokia 9500 Communicator and the 9300 smartphone model, which run Symbian.

Finnish anti-virus company F-Secure also sells mobile anti-virus products for consumers and mobile operators. The company has products for phones using Nokia's Series 60 platform and the Nokia 9200 Communicator, as well as for Pocket PCs.

Despite the publicity from anti-virus companies, most experts agree that mobile phone viruses and worms are in their infancy. The first mobile phone worm, dubbed Cabir, only appeared in June. Since then, only a handful of new malicious programs that target mobile devices have appeared, and none has spread widely. New threats include the Skulls trojan, which targets devices running Symbian.

Thiemann acknowledged that the threat of infection through a mobile device was remote, but said that mobile device worms and viruses were likely to become more of a problem as consumers adopted a newer generation of phones with advanced networking and software functions.

While Cabir tried to spread through Bluetooth wireless connections, future worms and viruses could find other ways to frustrate mobile users, such as opening GPRS links and running up charges, or pushing links to virulent web pages to phones.

"Moving forward, this is going to be a problem that could be as big as the virus problem on PCs," said Thiemann.

Trend Micro has not decided on an eventual price for the software or subscription services yet, but the software could eventually be sold through direct downloads, or bundled with services offered by mobile providers.

Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service

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