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Sophos changes tack with mobile anti-virus launch

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Sophos, the UK anti-virus developer, launched an anti-virus product for Windows mobiles yesterday. After years of saying the threat of viruses infecting mobile devices is over-hyped, Sophos now maintains the protection against a "growing number of malware attacks" aimed at Windows Mobile is necessary.

In a recent Sophos web poll, 81 per cent of business IT administrators "expressed concern" that malware and spyware targeting mobile devices "will become a significant threat in the future", while 64 per cent of respondents have not deployed security protection for their Windows smartphones and PDAs.

The survey's findings will be music to the ears of Sophos's marketing department ahead of the launch of Sophos Mobile Security. This is designed to provide real-time protection for Windows Mobile 5.0-based devices (PDAs and smartphones) against mobile viruses and spyware threats. Sophos's competitors, such as McAfee and F-Secure - have had mobile security products for some years. Sophos says its product differs from others in the market in having a minimal effect on device performance.

Graham Cluley, Sophos senior technology consultant, said the number of malware packages affecting mobile phones is tiny compared to those affecting Windows desktops. At most, there are 200 strains of mobile malware, most of which affect Symbian devices.

Even though the threat is minimal, Sophos's customers are looking for mobile malware protection, particularly to defend PDAs and smart-phones running Windows Mobile. In response, the company has produced Windows mobile security software ahead of developing protection for Symbian devices.

Cluley said he will continue to debunk alarmist stories about the mobile malware threat, but notes organisations investing in mobile malware protection were taking a precautionary approach.

"There's been no big outbreaks of mobile viruses against any platform but there is the possibility of targeted attack against mobile devices of particular organisation akin to the Trojan attacks against PCs we've seen more of over the last year or so," he told El Reg.

"Mobile malware isn't much of a threat at present, but firms need to think two to five years ahead when making purchasing decisions. ®

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