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First PocketPC virus found

Proof of concept

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The first computer virus to infect handheld devices running Microsoft's PocketPC OS was discovered over the weekend.

Duts was written by Ratter, of the 29A virus-writing group, as an academic exercise rather than a serious attempt to spread malicious code across handheld computers. The same group created a virus capable of infecting mobile phones running the Symbian OS, called Cabir, in June. Cabir - like Duts - was a proof-of-concept exercise. In both instances, 29A sent its malicious code straight to anti-virus firms.

Mikko Hyppönen, director of anti-virus research at Finnish AV firm F-Secure, said it's easier to write virus for PocketPC than Symbian. "There are well documented procedures for porting applications from one version of Windows to the other. We expected PocketPC viruses to come first perhaps the fact that they didn't shows virus writers are among the many people to have Symbian smart phones. Virus writers are more likely to target gadgets they have themselves," he added.

Duts is a traditional parasitic virus but it's hardly much of a threat because the virus asks for permission before spreading to other files. Once an infected file is launched, it displays the following dialogue box: "Dear User, am I allowed to spread?" If the user clicks yes, Duts infects executable files located in My Device (root directory) of a PocketPC. Duts does not appear to have any destructive payload.

In theory, Duts can reach mobile devices by email or the Internet, through removable memory, by synchronization with a PC or through Bluetooth. The virus is also capable of infecting mobile phones running ARM-based version of PocketPC.

"We don't expect a major outbreak," said Eugene Kaspersky, head of anti-virus Research at Kaspersky Labs. "Duts is unable to spread independently, only infects a limited number of files, and signals its presence in the system when attempting to propagate." ®

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