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Smartphones get a firewall

More useful phones are more dangerous phones, says Trend Micro

Top three mobile application threats

Trend Micro has a new version of its mobile security software out. Imaginatively named Trend Micro Mobile Security 3.0, it adds a firewall and intrusion detection software - the previous version was antivirus and antispam only.

V3 will only run on the latest Windows Mobile 5 and Symbian 9.1 systems though, the rationale being that as the market grows so fast, they will be the bulk of malware-targeted systems very soon.

"IDC estimates that over 100 million smartphones will ship this year," says Trend's device security director Todd Thiemann, "and viruses need the ability to run processes in the background, so even Java-capable basic phones aren't a big threat."

Thiemann says that smartphones are attracting more and more software developers, both good and bad. Nokia, for instance, has 2 million registered developers, while Windows Mobile has 650,000. "The malware community is cutting its teeth and learning how to create for these devices," he adds.

Mobile Security 3's firewall and IDS are particularly relevant when a smartphone also runs business apps over Wi-Fi, Trend says. Indeed, the company claims that the convergence of business and personal use on a single device is what makes it such an attractive target for malware, along with the multiplicity of routes that a virus can use to get onto the device, including wireless data, PC sync, memory cards and peer-to-peer Bluetooth links.

New categories of threat are emerging too, oriented on the specific properties of phones and moving away from vandalism towards financial gain, says Thiemann. Examples include malware that sends premium SMS, or remotely activates the handset's microphone to spy on the user.

The Windows release is out now and the Symbian one will follow early in 2007. The software costs $35 (£20), which includes a year's updates and service.

Will smartphone users shell out that much for protection against a threat many can't see yet? Perhaps not - but Thiemann points to the cost of cleaning up a virus outbreak or corporate information leak, implying that Trend's real targets are enterprises, network operators and even bundled software for phone manufacturers. ®

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