- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2000

A new e-mail virus attacking cellular phones in Spain is unlikely to do the same damage here, Internet security experts said yesterday.
The virus, the latest version of the "love bug," is spreading to thousands of Telefonica SA's cell phones that have Internet access.
Customers of Spain's largest cellular phone company are experiencing constant ringing as a result of this latest virus. Through these random calls, the virus enters the e-mail systems of the phones. The virus then spreads by sending itself to all e-mail and phone numbers in the phones' Internet address books.
Although only Telefonica customers have been affected by this latest bug, industry observers say the United States could suffer if a stronger virus somehow spreads through the country.
"This is part of an ongoing evolution, so we'll most likely see more of this type of activity and as the capability of pagers and cell phones increases, I will guarantee you that we will start seeing viruses with destructive capabilities," said Ben Venzke, manager for Alexandria, Va.-based Intelligence Productions, a computer security and cyber-intelligence firm.
The newer model cellular phones have increased Internet access so that e-mail can be checked as often as on a home computer.
"It's a risk in that it's very difficult to stop 'kids' from taking joyrides … and technology today allows many different types of pranksters, whether malicious or not, to wreak havoc on our e-mail systems," said Ken Fitzpatrick, vice president of electronic commerce security solutions at Computer Associates International in Islandia, N.Y.
However, U.S.-based cellular phone companies have better security systems that prevent hackers from breaking into computer systems, said Mr. Fitzpatrick.
"The good news is that there are procedures, policy and technology to protect the consumer or the business from that type of threat," he said.
While the new cellular phone virus cannot damage the actual hardware, it does destroy any saved computer files.
The virus writer, who has not been located, appears to have a grudge against the Spanish phone company, since he or she named the virus attachment "Timofonica." The name appears to be a play on words because "timo" means swindle or fraud in Spanish.
"It's possible to recover them at the cost of a large investment of time and resources, but it's not something you want to have on your machine," Mr. Venzke said.
The main problem with the new virus is that it creates a heavy strain on Telefonica Moviles SA, the cell phone division of Telefonica.
"This does all the big, bad things other other viruses do," Mr. Venzke said. "What concerns us about this virus is that it actually makes a deliberate effort to target text message systems… . We haven't before seen the deliberate targeting of specific systems."


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