Symbian Phones Subject to Malware… Maybe?

By | November 22, 2004

Early this morning, news broke across the Internet that a Trojan – a malicious type of software, typically a virus – was being spread amongst Symbian cellphones.

The program, dubbed “Skulls” by antivirus companies, is disguised as a theme manager for Nokia phones in the Symbian Installation System format, said Mikko Hypponen, director of antivirus research for software maker F-Secure. Only a few people have managed to run across the program on the Web and then downloaded and run the Trojan horse, he said.

“We are not talking about a huge amount of infected people, and it is not a virus, so it is not spreading,” Hypponen said.

News from Symbian later in the day, though, showed a potentially different story. It appears that the Trojan / Virus / Malware application may in fact be a valid program, though possibly poorly programmed. Details are slightly sketchy at the moment, as Symbian representatives are being unusually tight-lipped. It’s entirely possible that the full scope of this won’t be known for several days.

This much is fact, though: The application known as “Skulls” is no longer available on the major application download sites. Phones running the application are not spreading it, and the package isn’t currently being spread by other means. Users whose phones have been unwittingly “damaged” are being encouraged to contact Symbian or a local service representative.

In a prepared email statement, Symbian said: “It is Symbian´s understanding that the suspected malware is no longer being distributed. It is unclear if this [sic] adverse effects of this software are the result of deliberate development (a Trojan) or an inadvertent side-effect of poor software programming. Symbian and Nokia are investigating this matter further and Symbian will update the information below as soon as possible.” Symbian is collaborating with antivirus company F-Secure to find a fix for the problem.

The deathly looking mobile phone Trojan disrupts the default programs on Symbian operating systems. F-Secure said that Skulls, which renders useless all the default programs on the phone, displays the image of a skull where the program icon ought to be.

The Trojan leaves the user with the capability to do little else but make phone calls. Mike Hypponen, of F-Secure, says that the program was not technically a virus because it does not replicate itself. Hyponnen added that users should ultimately be careful when downloading software – even when doing so from larger and reputable download services.

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