Magazine article Security Management

Wireless Viruses Ready to Spread?

Magazine article Security Management

Wireless Viruses Ready to Spread?

Article excerpt

Researchers at an antivirus software firm are focusing their attention on the possibility of viruses that affect wireless devices, such as hand-held computers, as an "emerging market" that virus writers may attempt to exploit in the next few years.

Proof of the concept was revealed several months ago, says Chief Researcher Carey Nachenberg, of Symantec's Antivirus Research Center, when the company discovered viruses being transmitted to calculators that send and receive data through infrared transmission. Nachenberg posits that as wireless technology grows in popularity and continues to be embellished by expanded capabilities, including programming, a real threat could emerge. Already, the PalmPilot IIIs can exchange programs, raising the possibility that it could become infected.

"It was really inevitable that these devices would be targeted," says Nachenberg. "I would expect that as more programmable devices that support transmission come out, these threats will follow. It usually takes...three years or so for a new product to become ubiquitous, so we are looking closely at this."

Other experts agree the potential for a wireless virus exists, but say the threat is far off.

"It may be an attractive area [for virus writers] to exploit," says Fraser Howard, a technical consultant for Virus Bulletin. "Wireless, and presumably any new technology, will be exploited to some extent. Right now, those systems aren't being used enough to really worry about it."

Sophos, Inc., President Richard Jacobs says that while his antivirus company is watching for a number of new threats, it "does not see any specific threats relating to wireless devices."

If the threat does emerge, the solution will have to differ from that used for PCs. For example, given the limited memory of such devices, it is probably not feasible to install antivirus software, which can consume a great deal of space.

Nachenberg says that his company is considering several options against potential problems, among them the use of digital certificates so that files or programs could not be transmitted to wireless devices without being signed by a recognized and trusted party. …

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