Cell phone viruses poised to reach epidemic proportions

May 22nd, 2009 - 11:13 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 22 (ANI): Unlike computer viral epidemics, no major outbreaks of mobile phone viral infection has been reported to date. Ever wondered why?
Well, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, director of the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University, says that it is because a highly fragmented market share has effectively hindered outbreaks thus far.

He warns that cell phone viruses will pose a serious threat once a single mobile operating system’s market share grows sufficiently large, and that that may not be far off considering the 150 percent annual growth rate of smart phones.

“We haven’t had a problem so far because only phones with operating systems, so-called ’smart phones’, are susceptible to viral infection,” said Marta Gonzalez, one of the authors of a study report published in the journal Science.

“Once a single operating system becomes common, we could potentially see outbreaks of epidemic proportion because a mobile phone virus can spread by two mechanisms: a Bluetooth virus can infect all Bluetooth-activated phones in a 10-30 meter radius, while Multimedia Messaging System (MMS) virus, like many computer viruses, spreads using the address book of the device. Not surprisingly, hybrid viruses, which can infect via both routes, pose the most significant danger,” Gonzalez added.

The experts reckon that Bluetooth viruses eventually start infecting all susceptible handsets.

Given that human behavioural patterns have been restricting the spread of such infections thus far, the experts believe that there should be sufficient time to deploy countermeasures like antiviral software to prevent major Bluetooth outbreaks.

Although human behavioural patterns do not restrict the spread of MMS viruses, they are still constrained because the number of susceptible devices is currently much smaller.

The experts say that the unprecedented challenges will surface once people become increasingly connected.

They think that studies categorized as computational social science are necessary to understand group behaviour and organization, assess potential threats, and develop solutions to the issues faced by our ever-changing society. (ANI)

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