Trend Micro gives away mobile antivirus software

Trend Micro Inc. will become the latest major antivirus software company to provide protection against mobile phone viruses, with new antivirus and antispam software for mobile phones running the Microsoft Corp. Windows Mobile and Symbian Ltd.’s operating systems.

The company plans to introduce Trend Micro Mobile Security Version 1.0 on Monday, and will allow so-called “smart phone” users to download and use the software for free until June 2005. The product contains protections against mobile threats like the recent Skulls Trojan and Cabir worm, as well as filtering for SMS (Short Message Service) spam, according to a statement.

Trend Micro hopes to attract hordes of new customers who will purchase or receive sophisticated new handsets as gifts during the holiday season, allowing them to install the new Mobile Security product and receive antivirus updates at no cost until June 30, 2005 said Todd Thiemann, director of device security marketing at Trend Micro.

The product works like other antivirus software, spotting mobile threats using signatures developed by Trend Micro. The software will protect mobile devices from new threats in “real time,” as malicious code attempts to install itself on mobile devices. Users can also scan storage devices inserted into supported phones, or initiate scans of the mobile device manually.

New antivirus and antispam signatures can be uploaded to the mobile device using GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), a wireless communication service for connecting mobile phones to the Internet that is common in third generation wireless (3G) devices. Alternatively, updates can be transferred using Microsoft’s Activesync, he said.

Trend Micro’s Mobile Security software will support a wide range of devices that run the Windows Mobile 2003 or Symbian OS v.7.0 operating systems. A version of the product for phones running Windows Mobile, including the Motorola Inc. MPx200, O2 XPhone and Orange SA SPV C500, is already available. Trend Micro plans to have a version for phones that use the Symbian operating system by January, 2005, including support for the Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB P800, P900 and P910, and Motorola A920, A925 and A1000, Trend Micro said.

Trend Micro will also release a version of the software for mobile phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) running Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC-Phone Edition in January.

Version 1.0 will expire in June, when the company plans to have a software update available that will add new features including firewall and data encryption features, Thiemann said.

Trend Micro is just the latest antivirus company to offer antivirus software for mobile devices. Symantec Corp. announced the availability of Symantec Client Security software for the Nokia Corp. 9500 Communicator and the 9300 smart phone model, which use the Symbian operating system, in November.

Finnish antivirus company F-Secure Corp. also sells mobile antivirus products for consumers and mobile operators. The company has products for phones using Nokia’s Series 60 platform and the Nokia 9200 Communicator, as well as for Pocket PCs.

Despite the attention from antivirus companies, most experts agree that mobile phone viruses and worms are in their infancy. The first mobile phone worm, dubbed “Cabir” only appeared in June. Since then, only a handful of new malicious programs that target mobile devices have appeared, and none have spread widely. The new threats include a recent Trojan horse program dubbed “Skulls” that targets devices running the Symbian operating system.

Thiemann acknowledged that the threat of infection through a mobile device is remote, but said that mobile device worms and viruses are likely to become more of a problem as a newer generation of phones with advanced networking and software functions is adopted by consumers.

While Cabir tried to spread through Bluetooth wireless connections, future worms and viruses could find other ways to frustrate mobile users, such as opening GPRS links and running up charges, or pushing links to virulent Web pages to phones, he said.

“Moving forward, this is going to be a problem that could be as big as the (virus) problem on PCs,” he said.

Finally, while SMS spam is not a pressing problem in the U.S., it is a huge problem in Asia and Europe, where text messaging is far more popular, he said.

Trend Micro has not decided on an eventual price for the software or subscription services yet, but the software could eventually be sold through direct downloads, or bundled with services offered by mobile providers, he said.

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