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Mobile Phone Virus

01/08/2008 12:33 PM

Hello again,

Somebody at work told me his friend had her phone disabled by a virus!

This phone has not been used on the internet as the person in question is not adept enough to do this with a proper computer let alone a mobile phone. At her service provider they said it is now rendered useless and she can only buy a new one.

She thinks it was via another networks cell message that it came to her but she never noticed anything.

Have any of you guys heard about this and should we all be worried that your expensive phone could be left useless just like that? I just bought my daughter a new phone that costed over £100 and I would be somewhat upset if it would happen.

Does anybody know what we could do against this menace?

Thank you for any input.

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#1

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/08/2008 4:09 PM

I have heard of this happening before myself. there was an article describing exactly what you are talking about.

My understanding is this:

If you receive a text message on your phone from an unknown sender do not open it. the sender can sometimes be a hacker. Yes they have gotten phones sophistocated enough now that they can be hacked just like a computer. This Article gives a brief rundown of whats happening in this area.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/08/2008 4:34 PM

Thanks I just read it and it is extraordinary that every thing in this world is held to ransom by greedy ass holes with more brains than sense. But what is new.

Do you know of anything you can do against it like anti virus software for the phone?

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/08/2008 5:01 PM

As far as I know they have not developed anything as yet but I think they are working on it at MacAfee.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/08/2008 6:46 PM

Ford are running ads here for one of their cars with software from our beloved friends at Microsoft, so that you can tell it who to call and it will dial your phone for you.

How long before someone figures out how to send a virus to you car through this system? What then, they can hack your car as you drive? Frightening thought.

Brings a whole new meaning to crashing your computer!

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#5

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 12:31 AM

From what I've heard, viruses cannot be sent via a simple text message. If it was a multi-media message, that's different. These types of messages allow you to attach pictures, video or music to the message. Playing the music or watching the video/pictures is what triggers the virus infection.

This is in addition to getting the virus via the web.

I've never heard of a virus disabling a phone though. They're supposed to be able to wipe the memory (sort of like a format for a hard disk) and restore the phone's functions. Your phone book and other data are gone, of course, but the phone can be used again.

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#6

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 9:50 AM

I'd be kind of skeptical about this.

I don't have a cell phone but my Dad used them all the time. He is often having to replace them because they just inexplicably stop working.

They tell him it's because he got them wet. That is always their explanation and they don't even open it up to look inside.

I think it's just faulty design of their phones but they are not going to tell you that, they are going to tell you it's your fault.

Or, they might tell it's some kind of virus.

They just assume you are a dumb consumer that doesn't know the difference and that you don't have the technical expertise to argue with them.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 9:59 AM

Not meaning to be harsh sounding but did you even bother to read the article posted earlier in the first post?

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 10:11 AM

I just read it, I didn't read it before. Please don't beat me up.

I still mean what I said.

My Dad has gone through several cell phones in a short period of time and it's always the same excuse.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 10:18 AM

No need for a beating and i am sure that your dad has indeed had difficulties, however cell phone viruses are a real threat but not very prodominent just yet.

Cheers

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#10
In reply to #2

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 10:37 AM

I understand your frustration and I agree. However, unless the hackers are getting some payout from the cell phone manufacturers or someone else(?), I dont know what their "payoff" is, unless it is just the kicks of pissing people off.

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#11

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 10:56 AM

Doing some quick searching on the topic, there doesn't seem to be much current out there. I agree with double j b - they are a threat, but not very predominant now. There are two reasons for this:

1) All of the attacks require a response from the user. Either a text message is sent requiring the user to respond/click a link or an executable file is sent as an attachment via MMS or Bluetooth.

2) The cell phone service providers do quite a bit of screening on the network to block these kind of messages. This screening is in the form of blocking access from suspect sources and filtering content on messages that are allowed. This is true in the US and I would imagine that service providers in other parts of the world do something similar.

One important aspect to remember is the operating system of the cell phone. For basic cell phones, there is little commonality. Each manufacturer develops their own operating software and implements it on its devices. There can be a big difference between phone models from the same manufacturer.

The most susceptible phones are the "smart phones" which are essentially PDAs with phones attached. Or phones with PDAs attached, if you prefer. These devices do use common operating systems: Symbian, Windows Mobile, Palm, etc. The good news is that a Symbian virus would probably not affect a Windows Mobile device. And there are variations on Windows Mobile: 2003, Smart Phone Edition, Version 5, version 6, etc. Still, you have to open a file or respond to a link in order to set the virus loose on your phone.

A google search for "cell phone antivirus" will reveal several vendors offering anti-virus protection. They seem to cost around $30 (U.S.). I know nothing about them, so caveat emptor.

Good luck, case 491! I think your daughter is safe as long as she practices a bit of common sense on the use of the phone and pays attention to the messages she receives and responds accordingly -- like deleting the ones she doesn't know or trust. I suspect that this is what happened to your friend's friend's phone, especially if she is not too savvy or adept at technology.

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#12
In reply to #10

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 11:15 AM

My best guess is the just for kicks thing but somehow at some point they will be able to gain access to you phone directory or that of someone say more important than just us peons.

As things develop I think it could become more of a problem especially with smart-phones as has been eloquently stated below by bp01 in his post.

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#13

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 1:15 PM

My Mrs., who until recently worked in the cell phone service industry, says "not through a multi-media message or video" (I just asked her), but if it's a "smart phone" like a Blackberry that can connect to the Internet, then possibly via an email message, same as a computer. But Blackberries (and presumably others) have built-in anti-virus software, so it's not likely. And, apart from the 'P155 YOU OFF' factor, the potential payoffs include the same lot as the computer version - access to mailing lists & phone directories, worms that can propagate and screw up phone transmissions all over the place, etc. I regard her expertise as definitive. But then, I have to, don't I?

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/09/2008 1:43 PM

I regard her expertise as definitive. But then, I have to, don't I?

Only if you you want to sleep in the bed instead of the dogouse!!!!

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/10/2008 12:38 AM

Well, if it's from someone who worked in the industry, she'd be more reliable source than mine (a newspaper article). Thanks for the info.

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#16

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/10/2008 8:56 AM

I don't have a problem believing that the phones can get a virus, my skepticism comes in when they say "it is now rendered useless". I can't see how anything could be done to a phone, software wise, that could not be fixed by deleting any "user" memory space, and re-flashing the phones operating system software. If it was my phone, I would be thinking they are just trying to sell me a new phone, or too lazy to re-program the existing one. My $.02 worth.

Tom

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/10/2008 10:40 AM

You should be an economist, tdesmit, because your answer is worth more than 2 cents!

Depending on how you re-flash the phone and how the virus works, you should be able to restore the phone to complete functionality. The problem exists that most cell phone technicians that you run into in the stores don't realize how to do this. In fact, given the tools they have, they may not be able to.

The term "flash" or "re-flash" is an industry term that has been around for many years. It refers to the process of erasing memory on the phone and re-copying software to the device. This can be done to restore the phone, or it can be done to copy newer operating software to the phone -- an upgrade, if you will. Until fairly recently, this process had to be done by connecting the phone to a PC and running a software program that copied non-volatile memory from the device, erased everything on the phone, then copied the user non-volatile memory (address book, settings, etc.) and a clean copy of the operating software back on to the device.

Note that this process copies some information from the phone on to the PC, then back to the phone. If the virus is embedded in some portion of this memory, you have simply copied it back on to the phone. The better solution is to use the PC tool to simply copy the new operating software on to the phone and not the user non-volatile memory. Not every technician is aware of how to do it. It has been a few years since I used those tools myself, so I don't know if it is even possible with the current versions.

However, were I in the technician's place, I would have tried to re-flash the phone out of technical curiosity and an effort to satisfy the customer! You are right on the money about what needs to be done, tdesmit.

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#18
In reply to #2

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/12/2008 11:00 AM

Best is to use the phone for what the system was intended... telephone calls. Don't text message... also don't play with high explosives.

Bill

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Mobile Phone Virus

01/14/2008 9:06 AM

"...also don't play with high explosives..."

Like the song said: "but Mama, that's where the FUN is"

Or, as the USMC has been known to hold: "few if any problems cannot be solved by the proper application of sufficient quantities of high explosives". It may be overkill, but what's good about underkill?

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Users who posted comments:

Anonymous Poster (1); bp01 (2); case491 (1); double_j_b (5); EnviroMan (2); Janissaries (2); Sciesis2 (1); tdesmit (1); Vulcan (2); Zaphod2Headed (2)

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