Will Cell Phones be Responsible for the Next Internet Worm?

    Date30 Apr 2006
    Posted ByBrittany Day
    If you have been following the news lately, chances are you are aware of the latest round of cellular phone viruses. Redbrowser , Brador, and Cabir are a few examples of new viruses and worms that compromise so-called "smart phones"—phones that running a handheld operating system such as Palm OS, Symbian, or Microsoft’s Mobile 5—in much the same way as e-mail worms have worked in an increasingly destructive and costly fashion over the past decade. The smart cell phones at the center of this growing problem are just one member of a larger family of mobile computing devices that share the same vulnerability potential. Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs, and RIM devices all share the same wireless data capabilities and provide a significant amount of computing power to boot. You might think, "So what?" It’s just a cell phone, right? Well, that cell phone might just be responsible for the next major Internet worm.

    A worm is a self-contained, self-replicating program that propagates across the Internet by exploiting some known vulnerability. By exploiting the vulnerability, installing itself, and then searching for more computers with the same vulnerability to repeat the process, worms can spread very rapidly if the propagation vulnerability (or vector) is well-chosen. Even worse, some worms can propagate via multiple means (we call this multiple propagation vectors) making the speed and probability of spread much greater. Some of the more famous Internet Worms—costing industry billions of dollars—are LoveBug, Code Red, and Blaster. The good news is that as time goes on, we seem to be getting better at protecting our networks against attack as the perimeter security (firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention) industry matures. With capable perimeter security devices watching the entry points of our networks for malicious activity, the probability of infection is greatly reduced. Until now.

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