SOURCE: AXcess News

April 05, 2005 08:00 ET

Preparing for When Cell Phone Viruses Become Malicious

MONTREAL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 5, 2005 -- AXcess News has released a story covering the growing concern over cell phone viruses and what one company in the industry is doing about it.

With new cell phone viruses spreading in the wild it's only a matter of time before they become malicious, but few networks are ready for the attacks.

Last week, a new cell phone virus started spreading via messages containing photos and sounds, the first of its kind and a threat to cell phones worldwide, Reuters reported.

Named the Commwarrior.A virus, it replicates itself by sending messages to addresses found in the infected cell phone. It also tries to do the same thing with Bluetooth wireless connections and other devices, draining the cell phone's battery.

Cabir, the world's first cell phone virus in the wild was limited to only 16 countries in six months using Bluetooth connections. It was first reported at a cell phone store in California when it hit the United States.

Cellular resellers have been working with network providers but so far the networks have no answers and software providers have never had to deal with security of this type, leaving consumers in a lurch.

One retail chain is trying to work with its providers and its customers by instituting a national training program for its sales personnel to pass on information to customers. TelePlus Enterprises, Inc. (OTC BB: TLPE), a Montreal-based chain of retail outlets across Canada under the TelePlus brand of wireless communications hardware, said that so far they have not seen any severe attacks. But the company admits that the problem is eventually going to become serious enough to affect the entire wireless industry.

Ms. Kelly McLaren, TelePlus President, said that Canada's cellular saturation was 12 percent behind that of the United States. The US, on the other hand, is considered as much as 60% behind markets in Asian and Europe. This may be why most of the cell phone viruses reported have struck in those markets.

"Security considerations regarding these cellular viruses are affecting the industry and manufacturers of these devices as well as the providers should be looking at it more seriously," said McLaren.

She suggested that in the future, manufacturers may provide instructions or warnings with their equipment and that providers who have software risks may also be looking at ways to protect their systems. For TelePlus, McLaren noted, it was in the training procedures they're providing their sales personnel at all of the companies 38 locations.

In questioning other stores, we could not find any type of awareness or training procedures to help consumers once they left the store, a shocking consideration for buyers.

McLaren, who joined TelePlus in November 2004, hailed from the Fortune 500 discipline of having worked for Pratt & Whitney in sales and operations management. She said that the company has been expanding its retail locations, having added five this year alone with a goal of over 70 in the next two years.

TelePlus operates through three divisions. TelePlus Retail Services, which operates a chain of 38 stores across Canada; TelePlus Wireless, Corp., a virtual wireless network selling cellular network access to distributors in the United States; and, TelePlus Connect, Corp., a reseller of landline and long distance services including Internet services. Two recent acquisitions announced Monday added $300,000 in earnings to the company's war chest as it continues its aggressive expansion plans.

The company won the Consumer Choice Awards in Montreal for three years in a row, which says a lot about McLaren's company and its commitment to stand behind its products, especially in the wake of growing concerns over cell phone viruses.

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