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Nokia adds antivirus protection to new smart phone

Security begins to tighten after mobile virus alerts

Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia will offer mobile antivirus software through F-Secure as one of the features in its new Nokia 6670 smart phone when it is released in October.

The Symbian OS (operating system) smart phones will provide on-device protection, similar in fashion to antivirus protection programs for PCs, with automatic over-the-air antivirus updates for a monthly fee. The software will not come loaded into the device, but can be downloaded from the F-Secure website, according to Nokia spokeswoman Karoliina Lehmusvirta.

The Nokia 6670 will be the first mobile phone in its Series 60 line to offer the mobile virus protection, though users of other Series 60 mobile phones will also be able to purchase the antivirus protection software, "perhaps as early as October," Lehmusvirta said.

F-Secure is also in talks with other handset manufacturers about offering similar antivirus protection, according to Matias Impivaara, business manager for mobile security services for F-Secure of Helsinki. He declined to name any companies or set out potential dates for availability.

Nokia, based in Espoo, Finland, already offers antivirus software through F-Secure for its Communicator line of mobile devices, but Impivaara said the protection offered for the Nokia 6670 is a greatly improved version in terms of both features and pricing options.

"The first general offering for the mobile antivirus software came a couple of years ago, but this version has a whole new infrastructure," Impivaara said.

"For example, it has a patented SMS (short message service) update mechanism and HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure) connections. Plus, there is a big difference in the actual client."

The final decision about pricing has yet to be made but will be finalised by the time the phone ships "some time in October," Impivaara said. According to the company's current estimates, the antivirus mobile protection licence will cost about €2.95 (£2.00) per month, but early buyers will most likely be offered a discounted price of €1.95 (£1.32) per month, Impivaara said.

The handset will have an estimated retail price of €500 (£340) ex VAT, according to Nokia's Lehmusvirta. "That price will vary from market to market," she added.

After a series of three malicious program targeting wireless devices were discovered in between June and August, security specialists stepped up their warnings of the pending possibility of serious attacks against mobile phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants).

In June, Antivirus company Kaspersky Labs said it discovered Cabir, a network worm infecting phones running the Symbian mobile phone operating system by Symbian Ltd. At the time, the company characterized Cabir as the first-ever computer virus capable of spreading over mobile phone networks.

Cabir was followed in August by the discovery of the so-called Backdoor.Bardor.A virus, a Windows CE Trojan horse program designed to give attackers control over Pocket PC mobile devices. A few days later, a Symbian Trojan program infecting phones using the Series 60 user-interface platform cropped up with the ability to make the phones send text messages without the knowledge of the user.

F-Secure claims its mobile antivirus software service is the first commercially available product for protecting Symbian OS smart phones but IDC analyst Paolo Pescatore said similar programs can be expected in the very near future. "I can't say for sure this is the first such product, it may be, but there are a number of companies out there that have been looking at antivirus and antispam programs and those aren't far off," Pescatore said.

With the convergence of both the fixed and the wireless worlds, comes the increasing need to monitor not just for malicious code but also for an influx of spam that could clog up networks, Pescatore said. "It isn't an issue today, but it's a potential issue that could exist down the line."


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