September 10th, 2002, 02:53 AM
First wireless virus
originally posted here.
A company that produces antivirus software for computers says it has discovered the world's first virus that targets the increasingly popular wireless hand-held computers.
Although computer viruses have become common, including last spring's virulent "Love Bug" virus, reports of viruses infecting the smaller personal digital assistants, or PDAs, had previously proved unfounded.
This time, however, "this is not a false alarm," said Vincent Gullotto, director of McAfee.com's Anti Virus Emergency Response Team in Beaverton, which found the virus Thursday night.
The so-called Palm OS/Phange virus did not appear widespread, Gullotto said. "Right now, I don't think it's a big threat," he said.
Palm OS is the operating system used by roughly 79 percent of the world's hand-held computers. It has wireless technology that can connect to the Internet or to networks.
The virus fills the PDA's screen with a dark gray box. The PDA can be repaired simply by shutting it off and turning it on again, and the virus is easily wiped out by deleting any file called Phange.prc.
PDAs, no bigger than a paperback book and no thicker than a checkbook, are growing in popularity with business people for carrying lists of customers and contacts, and also are gaining in popularity for wireless connections to the Internet.
Another program affecting PDAs was discovered earlier this month in Sweden. Liberty appears to be a game but can erase programs stored in an PDA. Such "Trojan horses" do not spread by attaching themselves to other programs, the way viruses such as Palm OS/Phange do.
"It was perhaps only a matter of time before this happened," said Jesse Rothman, director of marketing with Oregon Scientific, which makes a competing line of PDAs that do not use the Palm OS and are not affected by the virus.