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World is safe from mobile viruses for a few more years

Stash tin-foil hats, Gartner advises

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A fast-spreading virus or worm wwill no affect mobile devices before the end of 2007 at the earliest, Gartner forecasts. The analyst firm reckons the conditions for the spread of mobile malware - high penetration of mobile devices and people routinely exchanging executable files by mobile phone - simply aren't there yet.

The conditions for a virus to propagate are absent until the point that 30 per cent of mobile users commonly receive emails with attachments and smartphones capable of being infected penetrate 30 per cent of the market, Gartner analysts John Pescatore and John Girard say.

Their briefing note on Preparing for Mobile Device Virus Attacks follows its dismissal earlier this month of mobile malware as a "niche nuisance". The analyst reckons client-side anti-virus protection on mobile devices is the wrong approach to take to the problem and that mobile malware blocking technology needs to be built into networks.

David Emm, senior technology consultant at Kaspersky Labs, doesn't dispute Gartner's basic assumptions but said it was difficult to pin-point when the first major mobile virus outbreak might hit. "Smartphone sales are rising quickly and virus writers are coming up with novel propagation techniques as with CommWarrior, which spreads using MMS messages," he said.

"Ultimately the bad guys will be trying to do the same thing on mobiles as they do now on PCs - steal confidential data or distributing spam. As with email, filtering is a good idea but I think they'll still be demand for client-side anti-virus protection for mobile devices." ®

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