Sep 23, 2005

The new face of the Virus : Digital Evolution - Has it begun?

Sit back and look at your mobile phone for just a second. Ah, you say, just another phone. Okay, maybe a scheduler too. A mega-pixel camera. An MP3 player. E-mail client. Web browser. Geez, it is almost like my PC, only smaller and also mobile. In fact, it is so much like your PC that it comes with a built-in Anti-virus program, to keep all your digital information intact from invasion and corruption.

That's no news, I know it already, you say. Surprise, suprise, there's more! Cardtrap.A, a Trojan horse that infects Symbian operated mobile phones is the first reported mailcious software that can "jump over" from the mobile phone to the PC. The Trojan first writes itself onto the memory card of the phone that it has infected by posing as a pirated mobile phone game. When the user connects the card to the PC and clicks on an innocent looking file, lo and behold! the virus infects the PC and tries to spread further through the network. On some systems, the Trojan propagates using the Auto-run feature in some systems.

This Trojan is not a particularly bright one, it doesn't do any damage unless some unwitting user clicks on the file. But the implications are significant. What if a new Trojan acted more like a worm on a PC, actively searching for victim computers on the network, rather than waiting for user interaction? It would, then, be able to infect both PCs and any connected phones as well, and would spread like wildfire.

We have heard of pig viruses capable of infecting humans and more recently, the bird flu virus crossing over to humans and so on. The virus mutates and infects the new species and causes a similar disease there. What we are witnessing could be a possible digital equivalent of the same evolution process. It is indeed a fact that this Trojan was designed specifically to infect PCs and phones simultaneously. If it had been given the ability to infect other digital devices like PDAs and other phones through Bluetooth or infrared or other means, just imagine the havoc it could have played, had it been more destructive.

Technology - for good and bad - is advancing so rapidly that what seems like science fiction today could very well be reality tomorrow. With our civilisation becoming more and more dependent on digital information devices and networks for day-to-day functioning, it would be indeed foolish to think that a day will not come when a smart polymorphic virus will just decide that it needs to infect the world. And we can't even treat a cold yet!

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