Mobile phone virus hoax on the loose

Message exploits paranoia and misinformation surrounding mobile phone viruses

A new email hoax has appeared, preying on fears over mobile phone security, anti-virus vendor Sophos said Friday.

The email, which claims to originate from the Sophos Anti-Virus alert team, says that a virus spreading between phones displays the message !?UNAVAILABLE!? before deleting all stored information and rendering the phone useless.

The possibility of computer viruses spreading between mobile devices has received much attention recently, especially after the appearance of Timofonica, a computer worm that caused infected PCs to send text messages to randomly-selected mobile phones.

It is, however extremely unlikely that a piece of code could interact sufficiently with existing mobile phones and mobile networks to behave like a computer virus. "There are no mobile phone viruses," explains senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus, Graham Cluley. "Mobile phones simply are not powerful enough yet to be infected by viruses."

Nevertheless, says Cluley, a hoax can be almost as disruptive and inconvenient as the real thing. "Hoaxes are a real problem to companies. Our technical support desk still receives more calls about hoaxes than about genuine viruses."

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