Minimal impact of Palm Trojan hides future danger

Palm Trojan fails to sting users but gets security pundits in a flap

Antivirus vendors report that the first Trojan horse program to affect the Palm handheld computers poses little tangible threat but highlights a significant future danger.

The malevolent program is disguised as a "crack" for a trial version of the GameBoy game emulation program called Liberty 1.1. According to antivirus companies the Trojan deletes all executable programs held on a Palm handheld. It was reportedly created by Swedish Palm programmer Aaron Ardiri as an experiment.

Antivirus vendors have, however, found minimal evidence that the Trojan application has affected Palm users since it was released. Antivirus company Sophos says it has received no reports whatsoever and according to its senior technology consultant Graham Cluley, the application should not be a major concern to users of these handheld devices.

"This Trojan horse is a very low threat to Palm users who are sensible enough to avoid warez mailing lists and do not download pirated software," he says. "This, combined with the Trojan horse's extremely obvious payload and lack of replication code means it is unlikely to be encountered by the vast majority of users."

Nevertheless, Cluley believes, the Palm operating system remains vulnerable to future hacking and virus attacks. "It has always been possible to write malicious software for the Palm operating system," he states.

Other experts also believe that regardless of the danger this Trojan horse program poses, it serves as an important lesson about potential new dangers for handheld computer users. "The main thing is that this highlights that this can happen," says European product manager for antivirus vendor Macafee Jack Clark. "We are starting to see a whole new area of mal-ware and a new area for malicious authors."

"The Palm and other mobile devices are spreading more," says European product manager for antivirus company Trend Micro. "We'll see more viruses and malicious code on any platform that becomes more common. It's just a matter of time."

The malignant application has now been removed from the Web and antivirus companies including Symantec and McAfee have released updates for their Palm antivirus programs designed to detect the program.

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