Operator Foibles Make Things Hard For Mobile Viruses

We're regaled with yet another doomsday story about mobile viruses, though this one's a little different. An anti-virus firm says it's seen a proof-of-concept virus that could infect any mobile phone running Java, and sends premium-rate messages to a Russian number that we're told can cost as much as $6. First, like previous scares, users have to go to a lot of steps to install the virus, which masquerades as a web browser. Unlike some previous mobile viruses, this one can't even spread itself around -- it has to be manually installed to infect a device. But beyond that, a couple of the mobile market's inadequacies will actually serve to protect it from this kind of virus. One major problem with J2ME has been the way it's been implemented differently on different handsets, with different manufacturers supporting different features (such as the ability for a Java app to send SMS messages). So any claim that a piece of software can be installed on "any" Java phone, whether it's a legitimate application or virus, is dubious at best. The other issue is sending the text messages to a foreign premium-rate operator. If, for instance, US operators were only recently able to introduce cross-carrier shortcodes and premium billing here -- it wasn't even that long ago we didn't have domestic SMS interoperability -- the idea that my phone could send a $6 premium SMS to a Russian number remains a distant one. Certainly this could be adapted to message in-country numbers, though that would limit its effectiveness. Ironically, or maybe fortunately, it's the industry's own ineptitude that promises to limit the damage caused by these types of mobile viruses.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.