Handhelds the next virus target?

Symantec will introduce this week Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds, mobile device-residing software designed to detect malicious code for the Palm and Pocket PC platforms.

Despite little evidence that viruses severely affect handheld devices, security vendors want to ensure on-demand AV (anti-virus) infrastructure protection if an outbreak occurs.

The licensed enterprise version of the product is offered in two forms: the Corporate Edition and Corporate Edition with Event and Configuration Management, according to Laura Garcia-Manrique, senior product manager for Symantec.

Symantec is also introducing a client-based Annual Service Edition of Symantec Anti-Virus for Handhelds.

As the size of the handheld's installation base soars, bringing with it rich handheld applications and new connectivity options, the environment for potentially harmful code increases, said David Thompson, a senior research analyst for Meta Group.

"The simple fact that functionality is increasing means there's going to be more opportunity for attack," Thompson said. "When it does happen, you want to have the infrastructure in place to distribute vulnerabilities at that time," not afterward.

However, Thompson acknowledged the multiple difficulties involved with creating and launching a mercurial virus or Trojan attack on a handheld device.

Although virus writers may be eager to craft an attack on a widespread platform, there are transportability limitations, along with a lack of extended online connectivity associated with the devices.According to Garcia-Manrique, both Corporate Editions of the new Symantec product feature scheduled and on-demand scans to protect the devices after desktop synchronization or when e-mail attachments are received and files are downloaded.

In addition, the new AV tool introduces LiveUpdate Wireless, which allows users with a wireless Internet connection to download device-specific virus definitions and Symantec updates to the handheld device over the Web.

Network Associates Inc., which offers McAfee VirusScan Wireless to secure mobile devices, says by November it will ship a new version of the product featuring integrated ePO (ePolicy Orchestrator) for management and Sniffer discovery capabilities.

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