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SANS - Survey on application security programs

Firms selling antivirus software for mobile platforms are "selling insurance for something that doesn't exist" - an antivirus software firm claims.

And worse, the development of antivirus software for PDAs and other handheld devices could give virus writers ideas for malicious code that they might not otherwise have thought of.

That's the contentious view of Bruce Walton, UK managing director of antivirus firm Command. He notes that no virus poses a risk to PDAs and claims that the development of security software for handhelds could "pre-warn virus authors or show them a way to do malicious code".

Walton argues that rival antivirus developers are jumping the gun in developing a cure for handheld viruses before there's any sign of a disease.

"How can you develop antivirus software without knowing what a virus author might do? You're just guessing what he might do," he said.

Malice in Wonderland

Jack Clark, of Network Associates, a rival security firm gives short shrift to Walton's thesis that antivirus software developers, who know a great deal about how malicious code works, can think of nasty exploits that wouldn't occur to clueless virus authors.

He argues that antivirus software for handhelds responds proactively to the problem and "closes the door on the threat before it occurs".

Although how much of a problem bugs on PDA will be remains unknown, he admitted, that didn't stop Clark comparing Command's approach to "leaving the doors open until someone steals your TV".

Clark dismissed the idea that developing antivirus software for handhelds software might give virus authors any help, "we don't leave clues in our software on how to develop viruses," he said.

Walton agrees that viruses and worms will arrive, one day, on handhelds, simply because these devices are so popular that virus writers will have easy access to the technology. Furthermore, they will strive to create malicious code in the knowledge that, if successful, their creations could wreak widespread havoc. ®

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