First Palm Virus Spreads, Killing Programs : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Saturday September 23 8:08 AM ET

First Palm Virus Spreads, Killing Programs


By Daniel Sorid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Get ready for a new era in computer vulnerability.

The first virus to infect a hand-held organizer was reported in the form of a tiny file that rummages through Palm Inc. handheld computing devices, ruining their capabilities.

While the virus, called Phage, seems not to have spread widely, one virus expert said he expects the destructive file to be shared among virus writers and given even greater capability to disguise itself and spread.

``It's the first real virus for any PDA ever, meaning that it actually is a virus with the capability to spread further,'' said Mikko Hermanni Hypponen, the manager of anti-virus research at Finland-based F-Secure Corp. A PDA is a personal digital assistant.

Other destructive files, called Trojan horses, have affected handheld devices, but unlike viruses do not spread as easily.

Hypponen said viruses such as Phage are often disguised as computer games or pornographic images on Internet newsgroups and chatrooms.

``No doubt they're already sharing the source code for this virus,'' he said.

A spokesperson for Palm said the company had just heard about Phage and was evaluating its impact.

Phage, which can be downloaded in seconds even from a slow Internet connection, makes the screen go blank for a second as it runs, according to Hypponen, who said the virus was anonymously transmitted to F-Secure.

During that period it attaches virus code to every program on the Palm, though it does not affect database files.

Users can inadvertently spread the virus by transferring applications to other Palm devices through an infrared port.

The only way to return the Palm's capabilities is to restore programs from a backup -- not a default option on Palm devices -- or to download and re-install all applications.

Data files, such as phone numbers and calendar entries, are by default backed up.

In May, a computer virus dubbed the ``Love Bug'' swept the world, shutting down e-mail systems at major companies and government agencies.

The virus spread through email, sending a copy of itself to anyone in a user's address book.

Hypponen said it is only a matter of time before a similar virus is written for handheld computers, sending malicious programs over wireless Internet connections.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 23, 2000


WARNING-The "Love Bug" causes hair to grow in your Palm.

-- (, September 23, 2000.

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