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Blackberry Smart Phones – Are They Vulnerable to Viruses?

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 2/21/2011

Some brands of Smart Phones have had vulnerabilities leading them to become smart phone “bots" that send out SMS SPAM. RIM has prided itself on the security of it’s Blackberry devices, but does this mean they’re safe from getting a virus? Read on to find out.

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    Why are viruses written? There are a few reasons – from feeding an ego to proving a technical concept. The most typical motive for writing a virus is tied to monetary gain. Infecting hundreds of thousands of machines or more give the virus writer a virtual army of machines ready to do their bidding. They often sell computing time to Spammers to send out unsolicited email.

    So… can you get a virus on your Blackberry?

    To date there are no “wild" viruses out there that can infect a Blackberry. In 2006, a possible vulnerability was found that takes advantage of the tunnel between a Blackberry and a Blackberry Enterprise Server. This vulnerability allowed remote access to the network the Blackberry Enterprise Server is on, but due to the way Blackberries operate, it is unable to self-replicate –one of the “features" that makes a virus a virus…. A user would need to manually browse to a malicious website and download and install the “virus" in order to become infected – hardly the picture of a typical virus infection.

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    Why aren’t there viruses for Blackberries?

    There are a few reasons where there aren’t any viruses for Blackberries.

    1) Motive is lacking

    If your goal is to write a virus to do the most damage or control the most nodes possible, you probably wouldn’t spend the time researching and writing a virus for the 2nd market share holder. Symbian OS held about 48% of the Smartphone market as of Q4 2008 whereas Blackberry OS held about 20% of the market.

    2) Technically difficult

    A bigger reason for not writing viruses on the Blackberry is the technical difficulty of it. In order to infect as many nodes as possible, a virus needs to be able to self propagate – sending itself out to other nodes and installing and repeating. As mentioned above, due to the way Blackberries handle email attachments, at this time, it’s not possible to write a self-propagating application.

    Another technical issue is that the Blackberry OS is better secured and thus harder to write a virus for over something like a Windows PC.

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    What’s the Lesson?

    Can it happen? Sure – given enough time and money, nearly anything is possible. If and when it happens, it’s unlikely it’ll be wide spread due to the way Blackberries handle attachments and applications.

    Just be sure to pay attention to what you’re doing – if you go to a site to download an application, think about whether or not you really need it and if your Blackberry is under your IT department’s control, you may consider asking them what they think before proceeding.