I was visiting Ryan at Second on Second (the bar he tends, located at, let’s see if you can figure it out… yup, 2nd street and 2nd Ave) when I got an alert on my cell phone:
Nokia 7610 wants to send you a message. Accept?
I gladly accepted, being surprised and a bit excited that someone had a Series 60 phone (series 60 is the interface of Nokia’s smartphones, like my Nokia 6620), and had the wherewithal to send a Bluetooth message.
Almost immediately the same alert popped up again, and again and again as I pressed no, I would not accept.
I looked in my inbox and found the file that was being sent to me — CABIR.SIS — a Symbian installation file (Symbian is the actual operating system that Series60 and other ‘smartphones’ run on) had been delivered several times.
I knew well enough not to open it. First of all, I had heard of the Cabir virus spreading around Europe, one of a handful that infect symbian phones, but even if I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have opened a random installation file someone had sent me. Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know. It’s like a mantra, and it’s just as true with cellphones as PCs.
This particular virus is relatively harmless — once installed, it attempts to transmit itself to any nearby Bluetooth device; once that device is infected, the same thing happens. Pretty soon, everyone is infected. The biggest downside is a drain on battery life and performance as your phone gets overloaded trying to send messages and files via the Bluetooth radio.
I turned my phone off and rebooted in offline mode (hit the power switch, then UP on the d-pad 3 times to select offline mode), which disables bluetooth. This prevented me from getting any further unsolicited messages. Next, I went to the Notes application and wrote a short memo:
Your phone is infected with a virus. Believe it or not!
but sadly, by the time I tried to send it back out the the phantom Nokia 7610, it was no longer in range (or it’s battery had just died, which is not unlikely).
I love my smartphone. I love being able to install custom applications, the modularity and expandability make my mobile computing life much more satisfying. But if viruses are already this commonplace — especially among non-savvy users, i.e., people NOT like me –, we’re in for a long haul when it comes to acceptance and growth of the mobile phone as the everyman’s computing platform.