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Security

Commwarrior virus marches on

The MMS cell phone virus attacks in a fourth country, Italy. While the virus is simmering for now, F-Secure warns of a possible boil-over.

The cell phone virus Commwarrior recently surfaced in Italy, in a sign that destructiveness of the Symbian OS nemesis is reaching a boil after simmering for months.

As feared, the virus is showing its propensity for spreading. Italy is the third nation in only three weeks to suffer Commwarrior attacks, according to security experts F-Secure. The other nations are India and Oman.

Originating in Ireland in January, the virus forces cell phones to send to random contacts versions of its malware that are hidden inside premium messages based on multimedia messaging (MMS) technology. The virus also can spread through Bluetooth connections. It infects only those phones based on the Symbian operating system--devices known as "smart phones" for their ability to replicate features normally found in personal computers.

While the number of infected phones is below 50, Commwarrior alarms security experts because it?s the first virus spread via MMS, which can instantly reach most cell phones and PCs connected to the Internet.

Commwarrior's strength also hinges, in part, on users' relative naivete about cell phone viruses. To fall victim to Commwarrior, a user has to open the e-mail and download the attached malware. On a PC, the same e-mail would raise a number of red flags that users would be unlikely to miss. To fool recipients, Commwarrior virus writers use more than 20 legitimate-looking types of messages, including one purportedly containing a Symbian software update.

"We know people are curious, and there are always some people who will install Commwarrior, especially since via MMS they seem to receive the file from someone they know," F-Secure warned on May 13 .