Mobile Phone Virus – Cabir

European virus writer collective 29A Labs have demonstrated a virus called Cabir which infects Symbian OS mobile phones with Bluetooth. This is a zoo virus which means it exists only in the laboratory environment and is not in the wild, that is, in circulation.

The Cabir virus was benign. The worm is transmitted over Bluetooth, but for your phone to become infected, you must accept and install the transmitted file. If you agree to install the code, the phone then displays the word “Caribe” and automatically looks for nearby Bluetooth devices to propagate onto.

The linked article quotes Bruce Schneier (author of the classic text Applied Cryptography and the more recent Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World) in two places that echoed my thoughts; that these devices are essentially mini-computers running cell-phone software and therefore, Cabir like malware are 100% inevitable.

I have removed a lot of malware from computers of my friends and at office. Irresponsible computing is often amusing from a perspective but it’s not really funny once the worm starts crawling. I personally am witness to a Nimda infection in a 40 Windows PC network. The user received the email with the worm attachment. I was standing nearby. And this happened in slow motion:

  1. She said, “Hey, I got a mail from you.”
  2. I replied, “No, I didn’t send any. what’s the subject?”
  3. She said, “Hmm… There is an attachment.”
  4. I said, “Attachment? I didn’t send anything to you. Wait!”
  5. She said, “What’s it anyway?” And then she clicked it. The confirmation dialog box opened.
  6. I shouted as I rushed over, “Don’t open it!”
  7. She replied, “Why not? Why’d you send it then?” And she clicked OK.

*sigh* At least I knew why our network kept on getting reinfected after 3 continuous days of purging it using specialised tools.

A large part of processor time and more expensive RAM-space in a modern computer is taken up by an online-virus scanner–computing time and memory space that could be used for something productive. I wonder if anybody has done the economics of this and tried calculating average loss over a year incurred by an individual or perhaps a business. I understand large firms have dedicated people looking into security and anti-malware activities. Another additional expense. When you sit back and take a macro view of the whole situation, it is quite interesting.

Either way, with the newer phones become yet more powerful and spacious, sooner or later, Cabir-like worms and other malware will soon abound our wireless communication channels as well. It is, inevitable

Leave a Reply