DoCoMo teams with McAfee on wireless antivirus

The two companies have reached the first stage in a project to port PC-style antivirus software to tomorrow's mobile phones

Network Associates, which makes the McAfee antivirus product line, said on Friday it is collaborating with NTT DoCoMo on an antivirus engine for mobile phones, in an effort to head off the threat of malicious code on increasingly advanced wireless devices.

The company said it has already produced a working prototype of its McAfee antivirus engine for DoCoMo mobile phones. The two companies have been working together since last May, although the partnership was not announced until now.

Viruses aren't yet a major problem on mobile phone handsets, which are much simpler than PCs and use closed networks, but security companies and industry analysts say it is only a matter of time. DoCoMo is planning to use the technology developed with Network Associates to protect future versions of its 2.5G and 3G phones. The telco, the biggest mobile communications company in the world with 47 million customers, is best known for its i-mode network of data-enabled mobile phones.

Network Associates and DoCoMo are planning to incorporate antivirus technology into DoCoMo handsets by the end of next year. The companies plan to submit some of the handset technology to the Open Mobile Alliance to be used as an industry standard.

Viruses are becoming more likely on mobile phones as providers switch to standardised operating systems, such as the Symbian OS used by Nokia and others, or Microsoft's Smartphone software, Network Associates said. Use of Internet Protocol networks, instead of the closed networks used by telcos today, will also create security risks.

"We think there's going to be malicious code out there within the next couple of years," said Network Associates wireless security evangelist Sal Viveros. "You are starting to see the standardisation of the operating system... and the standardisation of the network. With the move to 3G, you are basically talking about broadband. It all points to some kind of malicious code."

The company is also working with Symbian on antivirus software for Symbian devices, and has already released antivirus software for the Windows CE-based Pocket PC handheld platform through Dell.