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The Cabir worm, which has not been released in the wild – affects phones using the Symbian operating system and spreads via Bluetooth, which has a range of a few metres.
Infected phones display the message ‘Caribe’ when turned on and the worm then looks for other Bluetooth connections nearby that will allow it to spread.
‘From what we know so far we’re not aware of any malicious payload,’ said David Emm, senior technology consultant at Kaspersky.
‘It’s difficult to say if this will be followed by a spate of such threats or if hackers will be slower to pick up on this. But it’s a good example of how we’re all carrying a lot more technology that can broadcast; it’s a kind of network promiscuity.’
The virus was sent to Kaspersky’s laboratories anonymously but seems to be the work of a group who were also responsible for Rugrat, the first 64-bit virus that was identified last month. The group specialises in ‘proof of concept’ viruses that do not damage systems.
However, it is not the first virus to target mobile phones. In June 2000, a computer-based virus that sent unwanted text messages to mobile phones was launched.
The virus, called I-Worm Timofonica or VBS Timofonica, was a Visual Basic script (VBS) worm that used Microsoft Outlook to spread in a similar way to many viruses since.
Switching off Bluetooth communications on your handset can block this new worm. It has not yet been found in the wild.
A spokesman for Symbian said that while the company was looking into the case it would be unlikely to require remedial measures, as users had to accept data before the worm could be transmitted.
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