TIMOFONICA Virus: Questions and Answers

11 Jun 2000
Virus News

  1. How the Virus Attacks Mobile Phones?
  2. What is Timofonica?
  3. What is SMS-Messages and SMS-Gate?
  4. Is it Possible for this Virus to Infect My Mobile Phone.
  5. How Big of a Problem are Wireless Viruses for Wireless Operators?
  6. Is this Related to the ILoveYou Virus?
  7. What Can Users Do if Their Phones Get Infected?
  8. Timofonica Virus Technical Description

1. How the Virus Attacks Mobile Phones?

Creator of the Timofonica virus invented a very smart way of how to attack mobile phones: he programmed the virus to send SMS-messages (saying in Spanish "Information for you: Telefonica is fooling you") to GSM mobile phones through Internet SMS-gate of the MoviStart mobile operator.

2. What is Timofonica?

Timofonica is a disguised name for Telefonica company - the biggest communications company in Spain. The prefix "timo" in Spanish means "scam", "con trick" (see also: Timofonica Virus Technical Description)

3. What is SMS-Messages and SMS-Gate?

SMS-messages are a special service available for GSM users. It makes possible to exchange with short text messages between GSM phones. This is very useful because usually it is free (anyway there are mobile operators that get money for this). You just turn on the mobile, enter a special section in the menu, compose a text message and press "Send" button. In a few seconds this message will appear at another mobile and could be read there.

There is another way of sending SMS-messages using Internet SMS-gates (ISG). ISG is an ordinary web site where you can compose an SMS message with your computer&keyboard and send it to a mobile phone simply by pressing ENTER. The virus uses this gate (currently only one in Spain) to send meaningless annoying SMS-messages to a random phone numbers.

4. Is it Possible for This Virus to Infect My Mobile Phone.

No. There are no such capabilities in this virus.

This is not TRUE wireless virus although this is the first virus in the history, which attacks mobile users by sending them annoying messages. We predict that in the nearest future there will be more viruses of this type that will be targeted to other mobile operators around the world. This could be a real danger to have a mobile phone with SMS messages turned on. The worst thing is if a user pay for each SMS-message. Just imagine how much it will cost if he receives 1 000 meaningless messages.

5. How Big of a Problem are Wireless Viruses for Wireless Operators?

Currently there are no true wireless viruses. The Timofonica one is an ordinary computer virus, which has some features to attack mobile phones using Internet SMS-gates. Anyway we predict there could be real wireless viruses because the mobile phones will be not less computerised that commonly used computers. There will be built-in operating systems, text processors, spreadsheet editors etc., allowing users to create their own executable files and easily to exchange with them using wireless communications. There is already a possibility for creating true wireless viruses because of the WAP phones. We are very lucky because the virus creators can not get the appropriate developing applications.

How will wireless operators tackle the virus attacks? Exactly the same way the viruses are detected and removed from e-mail nowadays. There will be anti-virus programs installed on WAP gateways and they will constantly filter the traffic.

6. Is this Related to the ILoveYou Virus?

Partially. The Timofonica virus uses the same algorithm to spread via the Internet. It gets access to MS Outlook address book and insidiously sends out infected messages to all the addresses. The other feature very similar to "ILoveYou" virus is that Timofonica is originally written using the same programming language - Visual Basic Script.

7. What Can Users Do if Their Phones Get Infected?

Timofonica can not infect the phones. It just spams the phones with annoying messages. Currently I see that the mobile operators should install a special anti-spam software on their Internet SMS-gates to block the messages sent by this virus.