Skip to Content
Uncategorized

A Vaccine for Your Phone

Your home and office computers are probably protected by antivirus programs and firewalls. But what about your new cell phone?

Your home and office computers are probably protected by antivirus programs and firewalls. But what about your new cell phone? The latest “smart phones” let you read e-mail, open attachments, and download games and other programs. Just imagine if a virus slipped through that made toll calls to 1-900 numbers in the middle of the night. With phone spam already here (see “Spam to Go,” TR April 2004), industry experts suspect phone viruses are bound to come calling soon.

Anticipating the arrival of phone viruses, security software companies are starting to develop dedicated antivirus products. F-Secure of Helsinki, Finland, says that over the past year or so it installed virus detection systems in the networks of nine cell-phone service providers. This year, the company says, it will start selling antivirus protection software for phones themselves. “We don’t want to wait for [an attack] to happen,” says Mikko Hypponen, director of antivirus research at F-Secure. In most respects, the company’s antivirus program works the same way as the one on your computer, examining incoming e-mails and files for known viruslike code patterns and behavior. But it’s customized to work with the far smaller memory and lower processing power of a typical phone.

F-Secure is not alone. Symantec of Cupertino, CA-the largest antivirus software vendor for PCs-earlier this year began working with the world’s leading phone maker, Nokia of Espoo, Finland, to install virus protection. Symantec plans to offer security software for a new Nokia phone model expected to reach market later this year. And Microsoft, one of three major makers of operating systems for smart phones, says it is also increasing security.

Phone viruses are still a theoretical concern, but “it’s bound to happen this year or in the beginning of next,” predicts Sally Hudson, research manager at IDC, an information technology consultancy in Framingham, MA. If phone viruses do attack, with any luck the new programs will hang up on them.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.

Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.

Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.

AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.

What’s next for AI in 2024

Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.