PrevNEXT

How Cell-phone Viruses Work

By: Julia Layton

Protecting Your Phone

The best way to protect yourself from cell-phone viruses is the same way you protect yourself from computer viruses: Never open anything if you don't know what it is, haven't requested it or have any suspicions whatsoever that it's not what it claims to be. That said, even the most cautious person can still end up with an infected phone. Here are some steps you can take to decrease your chances of installing a virus:

  • Turn off Bluetooth discoverable mode. Set your phone to "hidden" so other phones can't detect it and send it the virus. You can do this on the Bluetooth options screen.
  • Check security updates to learn about filenames you should keep an eye out for. It's not fool-proof -- the Commwarrior program generates random names for the infected files it sends out, so users can't be warned not to open specific filenames -- but many viruses can be easily identified by the filenames they carry. Security sites with detailed virus information include: F-Secure, McAfee and  Symantec.
  • Some of these sites will send you e-mail updates with new virus information as it gets posted.
  • Install some type of security software on your phone. Numerous companies are developing security software for cell phones, some for free download, some for user purchase and some intended for cell-phone service providers. The software may simply detect and then remove the virus once it's received and installed, or it may protect your phone from getting certain viruses in the first place. Symbian has developed an anti-virus version of its operating system that only allows the phone's Bluetooth connection to accept secure files.

Although some in the cell-phone industry think the potential problem is overstated, most experts agree that cell-phone viruses are on the brink of their destructive power. Installing a "security patch" that ends up turning your phone into a useless piece of plastic is definitely something to be concerned about, but it could still get worse. Future possibilities include viruses that bug phones -- so someone can see every number you call and listen to your conversations -- and viruses that steal financial information, which would be a serious issue if smartphones end up being used as payment devices (see Bankrate.com: Paying by cell phone on the way). Ultimately, more connectivity means more exposure to viruses and faster spreading of infection. As smartphones become more common and more complex, so will the viruses that target them.

Advertisement

For more information on cell-phone viruses and related topics, check out the links below.

ElectronicsCell PhonesHow Cell Phones WorkElectronicsCell PhonesCan cell phones make you sterile?ElectronicsCell PhonesCell Phone PicturesElectronicsCell PhonesHow Cell Phone Jammers WorkElectronicsCell PhonesWhich cell phone should I buy for my grandmother?ElectronicsCell PhonesInside a Cell PhoneElectronicsTravel GadgetsIntroduction to Global Cell PhonesElectronicsCell PhonesHow are cell phones cloned?ElectronicsCell PhonesHow Prepaid Cell Phones WorkElectronicsCell PhonesCan you charge your cell phone with a fuel cell?ElectronicsCell PhonesTop 5 Future Cell PhonesElectronicsCell PhonesHow do I use my cell phone as a modem?ElectronicsCell PhonesIntroduction to How Video Conferencing Cell Phones WorkElectronicsCell Phones5 Ways to Donate Your Old Smartphone or Cell Phone to CharityElectronicsCell PhonesCell Phone Tower PicturesElectronicsCell PhonesHow Much Radiation Does Your Cell Phone Emit?ElectronicsHow-to TechHow to Unlock a Cell Phone or SmartphoneElectronicsCell PhonesCan extreme weather damage your cell phone?ElectronicsTravel GadgetsHow Wind-up Cell Phone Chargers WorkElectronicsCell PhonesHow to Tether a Cell PhoneElectronicsCell PhonesHow did digital technology change cell phone service?ElectronicsCell PhonesHow to Unlock an Android Cell PhoneElectronicsCell PhonesScientists Have Invented a Battery-free Cell PhoneElectronicsCell PhonesHow to Decide Between a Smart Phone and Cell PhoneElectronicsTelephone TechnologyHow to Forward Calls from a Landline to a Cell PhoneElectronicsCell PhonesHow to Import Pictures from a Cell Phone to a LaptopElectronicsTech's Effects on the Family5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Off Their Cell PhonesElectronicsTech for KidsCell Phones for Kids: When is the right time?ElectronicsCell PhonesWould a cell phone work on a submerged submarine?ElectronicsCell PhonesHow to Transfer Data from One Cell Phone to AnotherElectronicsCell PhonesCan you use a cell phone as a credit card?ElectronicsCell PhonesWhy is a cell phone called a cell phone?ElectronicsCell PhonesElectromagnetic InterferenceElectronicsCell PhonesWhat does GSM mean in a cell phone?ElectronicsCell PhonesHow does a vibrating cell phone or pager work?ElectronicsCell PhonesHow GPS Phones WorkElectronicsHow-to TechHow to Unlock GSM PhonesElectronicsCell PhonesHow Smartphones WorkElectronicsCell PhonesCell-phone CodesElectronicsCell PhonesCell-phone Frequencies - Cell phone FrequenciesElectronicsCell Phone AppsHow to Fake a GPS Location on Your PhoneElectronicsWirelessHow 5G WorksElectronicsTelephone TechnologyWhy does the phone still work when the electricity goes out?ElectronicsCell PhonesHow Cell-phone Radiation WorksElectronicsCell PhonesHow Cell-phone Viruses WorkElectronicsCell PhonesHow Cell-phone Implants WorkElectronicsHigh-Tech Gadgets5 Tips for Picking the Right SmartphoneElectronicsCell PhonesCell-phone Network Technologies: 3G - 3G Cell phonesElectronicsCell PhonesInside a Digital Cell PhoneElectronicsWirelessHow 4G WorksElectronicsCell PhonesDo Smartphones Really Charge Faster in Airplane Mode?ElectronicsCell Phones4 Reasons Your Phone Keeps Dropping CallsElectronicsCell PhonesPotential Health Risks - How Cell-phone Radiation WorksElectronicsCell PhonesSmartphone Hardware and Software - How Smartphones WorkElectronicsCell PhonesCell-phone Channels - Cell phone ChannelsElectronicsCell PhonesSource of Radiation - How Cell-phone Radiation WorksElectronicsCell PhonesCell Phone Jamming DeviceElectronicsCell PhonesAnalog Cell PhonesElectronicsFuture TechWhat Will Replace the Smartphone?ElectronicsWirelessHow WiFi Phones WorkElectronicsTelephone TechnologyDo smartphone covers really protect phones from damage?ElectronicsCell PhonesCell Phone Jamming Legal IssuesElectronicsCell PhonesCell Phone Network Technologies: 2G - 2G Cell phone NetworksElectronicsCell PhonesCell Phone Jamming BasicsElectronicsCell PhonesGSM and CDMA - How Cell Phones WorkElectronicsCell PhonesCould someone stalk you using your own smartphone?ElectronicsCell Phones6 Creative Uses for an Old SmartphoneElectronicsTravel GadgetsIntroduction to Global Cell Phones

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • "Cell-Phone Viruses." TechnologyReview.com.http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/feature_emerging.asp?p=9
  • "Cell phone virus turns up the heat." News.com.http://news.com.com/Cell+phone+virus+turns+up+the+heat/2100-7349_3-5520003.html
  • "Clock's ticking on phone virus outbreak, experts say." News.com.http://news.com.com/Clocks+ticking+on+phone+virus+outbreak%2C+experts+say/2100-7349_3-5756428.html?tag=mainstry
  • "First cell phone worm emerges." NewScientist.com.http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn5111
  • F-Secure
  • "The Future of Cell Phone Viruses." BonafideReviews.com.http://www.bonafidereviews.com/article.php?id=93
  • "New mobile virus ups the ante." SearchSecurity.com.http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid14_gci1076338,00.html http://www.f-secure.com/
  • "Phone virus spreads through Scandinavian company." ComputerWorld.com.http://www.computerworld.com/securitytopics/security/virus/story/0,10801,104300,00.html
  • Symantec Security Responsehttp://securityresponse.symantec.com/
  • "Threat From Mobile Device Viruses a Sleeping Giant." CRM News.com.http://www.crmbuyer.com/story/44222.html