Kaspersky Lab Int. Demystifies the Discovery of the First "True" Wireless Virus

30 Aug 2000
Virus News

New Ripples of Virus Hysteria Lap against the Virus World's Shores

Cambridge, UK, August 31, 2000 - Because of the numerous user requests regarding the discovery of the first true wireless virus for mobile phones, Kaspersky Lab Int., an international anti-virus software development company, considers it necessary to clarify the issue.

According to the news published on August 30 by key international information agencies, a Norwegian Internet company for wireless technologies has discovered a security breach in some models of Nokia mobile phones. This breach allows a special SMS-text message to be sent to a phone that will freeze its keys and disable normal operation. Functionality can be restored by the removal of the phone's battery.

This announcement has been repeated by many sources and has caused the story to be widely misunderstood. Many mobile phone owners took the news as if the first true wireless virus had been discovered that is able to operate inside the phone's memory and cause harm to the phone's environment. Kaspersky Lab claims that this security breach is not a real virus threat. It is known that the main distinctive attribute of a virus is its ability to self-replicate, i.e., infect other objects. The previously mentioned Nokia phone models simply do not have the necessary hardware or software capabilities to enable a malicious program to plant itself into the phone's management system.

"We admit that it is possible to block a phone's keys by sending an SMS-message containing a special code. This is not the first and obviously not the last security breach discovered in mobile phones. Moreover, I believe as more functionality is added to mobile phones, it will result in more breaches being found," said Eugene Kaspersky, Head of Anti-Virus Research at Kaspersky Lab. "However, the discovered vulnerability is not a virus. From a computer virology point of view, it enables the creation of malicious programs of the Trojan type."

Kaspersky Lab affirms that mobile phones owners do not need to trouble themselves about this issue. Firstly, Nokia has not officially confirmed the existence of this vulnerability as of yet. However, company officials stated that if they do find something, they will make the necessary changes to prevent further exploitation of this breach. Secondly, we believe the technology for creating dangerous SMS-messages is in a safe place and is currently not available for malefactors to misuse. Thirdly, the discovered breach is applicable only to certain Nokia models and cannot be exploited on other vendor's mobile phones.

"We classify this event as a 'false start' in announcing the discovery of the next generation of viruses able to infect mobile phones," said Michael Kalinichenko, Kaspersky Lab Technical Director. "Despite this, Kaspersky Lab believe it is likely that such viruses will emerge in the near future, exploiting the latest improvements to the functionality of mobile phones. To prevent this, Kaspersky Lab is ready to announce the world's first platform-independent anti-virus engine, that allows us easily to move our anti-virus software to any operating system, processor type and even mobile phones, PDAs, and Internet-enabled smart home appliances."