McAfee releases Windows Mobile security

Security applications maker McAfee on Monday introduced two new packages of tools designed to help ward off threats for enterprise users of mobile devices running Microsoft's operating system software.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company launched VirusScan Mobile and McAfee VirusScan Mobile Enterprise Edition for the Windows Mobile 5.0 OS, promising protection for mobile users from a range of threats such as malware and wireless phishing campaigns.

While there have only been a handful of wireless viruses discovered to this point and a very small number of reported infections of mobile handhelds, McAfee contends that the devices represent the "next frontier for hackers and virus writers."

With an increasing number of mobile devices becoming available that offer access the Internet and receive text messages, there will be even greater potential for future attacks, the company says.

McAfee says its new software protects against threats carried by email or attachments, as well as those that use instant messaging, web downloads or require no user interaction at all to install themselves. The company said the tools automatically detect and clean any potentially infected files before the contents can be run on a mobile device. The software maker said its products also allow for the elimination of malware without interrupting any communications connections.

McAfee is offering support for the programs via its subscription data feeds in order to keep devices updated with protections against any new or emerging threats.

"The need for mobile virus protection has never been greater," Victor Kouznetsov, senior vice president of mobile technology at McAfee, said in a statement. "As organisations extend their mobile work forces, the need to protect a broader range of platforms becomes more critical. Now, users of Windows Mobile 5.0 can have the same worry-free experience as other mobile device users."

One of the main reasons given by security experts for the dearth of mobile attacks has been that popular mobile devices run on a range of different operating systems built by their manufacturers, unlike the world's desktop computers, most of which run on Microsoft Windows, creating a huge target for malware code writers. Thus far the only noteworthy mobile attacks, such as the Commwarrior program, have affected the Symbian OS and have surfaced primarily in Europe.

However, McAfee researchers have recently detailed a new form of attack they said may be turning up soon on more handhelds in United States. Dubbed "smishing" by the firm (from SMS, or Short Message Service, and phishing) the schemes use text messages sent to wireless owners to try and lure individuals to a website to download a Trojan virus. The attacks typically inform users that they have been signed up for a service that will be charged to their phone bills unless they unsubscribe, and when a user selects the URL provided by the message the device is instead loaded up with a botnet virus.

This type of attack "is yet another indicator that cell phones and mobile devices are becoming increasingly used by perpetrators of malware, viruses and scams," wrote McAfee Researcher David Rayhawk in a recent blog posted to the company's website. "Because monitoring botnet activity is complex, it is challenging to know the current scope of the problem; Imagine the threat to enterprise networks once hackers learn how to fully exploit smishing techniques."

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