The above picture is from the Mobile Asia Mobile Expo held in New Delhi a little while back. While visiting I came across this stall I acted dumb and asked the sales guy why I needed the solution he was advertising. He started off with a questionnaire, Do I used Internet on my mobile? Do I install stuff? Do I keep bluetooth on? Hell, he asked me everything apart from whether or not I make calls with it. To each of those questions he said then I NEED their product because it gives me protection from 253(!) viruses and also has a firewall to ‘protect’ me when I use the Internet.
By this time I was disgusted and trying to imagine what would this ‘seemingly informed’ salesman with the names of Carib and Commwarrior up his sleeve do to the average S60 user out there?!! I asked him to take him to their top man and I handed over my N82 to him and asked if to infect it with one virus and I would leave the phone with him. Needless to say I still have the phone with me! This post focuses on the myth of mobile malware and the so called hacking of S60.
I am frankly sick and tired of explaining to people that you do not need an anti virus solution for your S60 third edition phone (That includes every S60 phone released since more than a year ago). You absolutely do not. Even for the older S60 phones that run second edition there are only a handful of so called ‘viruses’ which you can easily keep out if you keep your eyes open. You do not even need to keep the bluetooth switched off, just don’t install applications which you not know to be trustworthy.
The second thing I’ve heard a lot of is that if you use Internet on your mobile you need an anti virus and a firewall. Completely baseless again. The viruses that affect your PC are redundant on the phone. If fact if at all I need to browse a website I know to spread malware I use the wonderful S60 browser to look it up. All these AV solutions do is add bloat, burden the processor, occupy precious RAM and drain battery.
Now about the hacking part. I greatly appreciate the work people are putting in to make the OS more open. What I am worried about is how the word ‘hacking’ to most consumers means trouble and paranoia. In reality, S60 third edition has caged system folders that do not allows complete access to the applications. This is what has been hacked. Quoting Steve from his AAS post:
“Using the official Software Development kit and its associated debugging tools, together with some detective work and [doubtless] a little guessing, some users have worked out a way to patch the internal disk of a device in order to allow temporary but unrestricted access to the normally hidden and locked away \sys folder, the place where the operating system and its control files live.”
Now this is so seeimngly complicated to achieve that I am not even going to try. Second there is no remote way to access someones phone and make it susceptible to potential malware. Bottomline is that this shouldn’t bother any average user.
“Any one who is technically sound enough to both want to and know how to hack their device to this extent is going to know exactly what’s installed on his or her smartphone and won’t let a would-be piece of malware within a mile of its operating system.”
I am done with my rant, but please do read this post by Steve over at AAS if you even marginally feel threatened by Hacking and Viruses. If you don’t, still read it and may be you will end up educating a friend or a collegue and hopefully a chain reaction will kick in.
If I go out to the market and act dumb in front of the salesman and ask for an Nseries/Eseries he advices me not to buy one because “he has got reports from customers that these phones have the virus problem and hang a lot”. This happens every single shop I go to. I think we need a marketing push/a consumer awareness programs, anything that can bust this myth. Yet Nokia themeselves push anti virus to the consumer through the Download! client and even sell new phone with it already there. What message are you trying to send here? That your phones are suseptible and NEED an anti virus to protect them? The message you SHOULD want to send is one of safety and reliance. Change your poilicies or I see your market share in the second largest and the fastest growing mobile market of the world plumet no end. Secondly, the buggy firmwares that cause reboots need to be ironed out and the use of the NSU has to be advertised for the average joe out there not just the power users.