Nokia adds anti-virus protection to smartphone

Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia will offer mobile anti-virus software through F-Secure as one of the features in its new...

Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia will offer mobile anti-virus software through F-Secure as one of the features in its new Nokia 6670 smartphone when it is released in October.

The Symbian OS (operating system) smart phones will provide on-device protection, similar to anti-virus protection programs for PCs, with automatic over-the-air anti-virus updates for a monthly fee.

The software will not come loaded into the device, but can be downloaded from the F-Secure website, according to Nokia spokeswoman Karoliina Lehmusvirta.

The Nokia 6670 will be the first mobile phone in its Series 60 line to offer the mobile virus protection, although users of other Series 60 mobile phones will also be able to purchase the anti-virus protection software, "perhaps as early as October", Lehmusvirta said.

F-Secure is also in talks with other handset manufacturers about offering similar antivirus protection, according to Matias Impivaara, business manager for mobile security services for F-Secure of Helsinki. He declined to name any companies or set out potential dates for availability.

"This announcement is a starting point for us and we have been testing the service with a variety of handsets from different suppliers and in several operator networks," Impivaara said.

Nokia already offers anti-virus software through F-Secure for its Communicator line of mobile devices, but Impivaara said the protection offered for the Nokia 6670 is a greatly improved version in terms of both features and pricing options.

"The first general offering for the mobile anti-virus software came a couple of years ago, but this version has a whole new infrastructure," Impivaara said. "For example, it has a patented SMS update mechanism and HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure) connections. Plus, there is a big difference in the actual client."

The monthly pricing plan is also a first for F-Secure, Impivaara said. The first month of the service will be free trial period and thereafter, users will be charged a licensing fee that will include the cost of updates, he said.

The anti-virus mobile protection licence will cost about €2.95 (£2) a month, but early buyers will most likely be offered a discounted price of €1.95 per month, Impivaara said.

The handset will have an estimated retail price of €500 without taxes, according to Nokia's Lehmusvirta. "That price will vary from market to market," she added.

The Nokia 6670 will come in two tri-band versions, optimised for GSM networks in the EMEA markets (on 900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz bands), and in the Americas (on 850MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz bands). Both versions will be able to roam in GSM networks across regions.

Nokia is also offering addition security through its mobile VPN (virtual private network) client and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption for web-based applications.

Lehmusvirta stressed that there is nothing about the Nokia 6670 that makes it particularly susceptible to viruses and that Nokia knows of no capabilities within any of its devices that a virus might exploit.

"There has been a common perception for many years by the entire industry that mobile devices will become a target of viruses, though to date this kind of threat is small. We want to begin protecting against it now," Lehmusvirta said.

After a series of three malicious program targeting wireless devices were discovered in between June and August, security specialists stepped up their warnings of the pending possibility of serious attacks against mobile phones and PDAs.

In June, anti-virus company Kaspersky Labs said it discovered Cabir, a network worm infecting phones running the Symbian mobile phone operating system by Symbian. At the time, the company characterised Cabir as the first-ever computer virus capable of spreading over mobile phone networks.

Cabir was followed in August by the discovery of the so-called Backdoor.Bardor.A virus, a  Windows CE Trojan horse program designed to give attackers control over Pocket PC mobile devices.

A few days later, a Symbian Trojan program infecting phones using the Series 60 user-interface platform cropped up with the ability to make the phones send text messages without the knowledge of the user.

"It shows the point that hackers and virus writers are targeting all types of mobile handsets. There is no reason to panic, but it is good to be ready, to prepare for the future with protective insurance. We learned that from the PC world."

Laura Rohde writes for IDG News Service

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