View Full Version : Virus Percolation Effect on smartphones a load of BBC tosh
03-05-2009, 05:53 PM
So much for the quality stamp of being in the good 'ol BBC. Their latest Digital Planet podcast, going out worldwide, starts with an scaremongering piece which claims that the only reason why there hasn't been a mobile phone virus pandemic is that there aren't enough Symbian OS-powered phones out there yet. Completely ignoring the fact that the viruses mentioned are ALL for really old phones and OS versions and for clueless, naive users. The Symbian Foundation's new PR dept would do well to fire a rocket into Gareth Mitchell, Jason Palmer and self-confessed expert Prof Barasbi, who, patently, haven't a clue what they're talking about. Pah.
Read on in the full article (http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/9418_Virus_Percolation_Effect_on_sm.php).
03-05-2009, 06:36 PM
Part of the problem is that the media seems to get their info about viruses from people who work at anti-virus companies.
These experts have lots of knowledge, but they have no reason to use that knowledge in a balanced way. On the contrary, they have a direct financial stake in making people as terrified of viruses as possible, because a climate of fear makes people buy more anti-virus software.
This isn't just on phones, computer security companies do the same thing (my computer's AV reports list ordinary website cookies in the "spyware" column alongside suspected trojans etc).
03-05-2009, 07:02 PM
Agree. Its all about making money by telling people 'there is risk from viruses so you need to buy our antivirus'. The first company did this is Nokia by there FSecure antivirus. I surf web using my E90 more than PC & its 7 months without any problems & i didnt install any AV software & this is why i wish Nokia bring Notebook so i can leave Windows devides collect the dust but this is another subject.
03-05-2009, 07:23 PM
Those guys don't know what they're telling about. There are millions of Symbian OS phones out there in the hands of users. So, if there was going to be a massive proliferation of Symbian viruses, it would have happened by now.
As long as one isn't careless about where they get their software from, and the websites they browse, viruses are not a problem on Symbian.
03-05-2009, 07:41 PM
the only reason why there hasn't been a mobile phone virus pandemic is that there aren't enough Symbian OS-powered phones out there yet.
Symbian had a market share of something like 60 to 70% at one point, and has sold something like 150 million units so far.
How many more phones do they want there to be "out there" before they admit that there is no "pandemic"?
03-05-2009, 08:01 PM
It's a rather ridiculous claim, but it's also a rather specific claim which should make it easy to disprove:
"Once 10% of (phone users) share the same operating system, says Prof Barasbi of Northwestern University in the US, phone viruses could spread within hours via Bluetooth or text."
...so when Symbian (or Windows Mob or Palm or OS X or Android) reaches 10% of overall phone sales, the phone world will be taken over by viruses within hours?
If that's the case, why aren't most PCs taken over when 90% of them have a common operating system? Why doesn't that happen "within hours"?
The way it's being reported also implies that somehow a virus on one OS is a threat to everyone, which just isn't the case. If you don't use the same OS, a virus can't affect your device.
It's very much like Prof. Kevin Warwick's predictions about robots taking over the world within 10 years, which he knows himself is implausible yet he makes the claims because it produces lots of column inches in newspapers and (he hopes) funding for his robotics department.
04-05-2009, 07:12 AM
Tzer2, I fully agree that all this scaremongering from the AV companies is terrible, but on the other hand be careful about thinking that their statements can be easily disproved. Don't underestimate them, they give misleading statements IMO, but they are not stupid.
That statement about possibility of spread if 10% of phones have a compatible OS: That would be in fact quite hard to disprove in a convincing way. I would even argue that, in a very narrow and technical (and therefore, for the general public, highly misleading) sense this is even true:
IF (very big "if") somebody finds an exploitable security hole in Symbian (unlikely, but possible), and writes a functioning virus with replication ability (again, unlikely, but possible), then once in the wild it *could* spread because indeed some % of all phones out there run Symbian.
I myself would not argue against those AV guys by trying to disprove their arguments, but by working with probabilities and technical facts and realities that make mobile virus outbreaks as likely as a large asteroid impact anytime soon.
04-05-2009, 12:03 PM
"I was very happy that I found the antispyware solution . . ." That reads like a plug entered by a robot automatically scanning forums.
04-05-2009, 12:34 PM
"On the other hand, a Bluetooth-mediated viruses, while having a much slower rate of infection, could conceivably reach every user of a given OS."
Te know that these are such idiotic statements from BBC because we have an interest in these devices, the journalist is fumbling in the dark. Bear this in mind when you read something a journalist has written on a subject that you don't know about. It's just as likely to be full of rubbish as the BBC smartphone virus article.
04-05-2009, 01:47 PM
I listened to this podcast & also got the impression that it was alarmist. You can drive a bus through the gap in the professors logic. It would be interesting to read his research to understand if it was misreported or if the research is lacking.
I was struck that the model didn't have allowances for viruses spreading through peer-groups. Most of my family & friends are tech-savy so most of my contacts use smart-phones (50% or more..) So this would already be higher than the 'percolation' point...
But I do think that there's a grain of truth here. Phone users are complacent & all phone OS have some security weaknesses. I'm sure that a 15 year old with an SDK can write a malicious html script or exe that can proliferate itself. It is a matter of time till there is a widespread (& widely reported) instance.
The 'hacker-attractiveness' of an OS is a big factor. Mac & Linux freaks will pride themselves that their world is virus free, but this isn't based on OS security. Rather, it's more attractive to generate a virus that can disrupt 90% of machines..
I'd be most worried about iPhone OS. There's a big surge in interest from developers. There are easy programming tools to use & a few million novice users out there. These users are willing to download apps & run them. IMHO this could appeal to those sad individuals who enjoy creating those pesky viruses...
05-05-2009, 12:03 AM
Don't hold back Steve, tell us how you really feel!
Seriously though, I know how you feel; most smartphone users just haven't got a clue.
05-05-2009, 07:46 AM
Come on now Steve. Lets not fall into the trap of telling porkies ourselves. I can't for one minute believe that you were really "Staggered" by the pigs ear the BBC made of it! Seems par for the course to me ;)
05-05-2009, 01:33 PM
There's a Contact Us/Feedback form on the bottom of the Digital Planet page linked to at the top of this page, please use it to correct the BBC on what is blatantly ignorant reportage.
06-05-2009, 12:39 PM
The BBC standard format should have views from both side of the fence. So for swine flu they cover the case for being alarmist and then another view which considers the case for underplaying the news (based on previous non-even scares such as avian flu).
Check out the typical format:
1. Stupid headline
2. Sales pitch
3. Negative appraisal from prof
4. Final overly optimistic quote form the subject
The problem is that many tech stories is that to journalists, there are not always a obvious fence. And yes, they always go to antivirus companies because they are perceived as the experts.
What we need is for journalists to realise that many tech people talk bullshit because they have got away with it for so long.
06-05-2009, 01:28 PM
The fundamental problem is that telling people the sky won't fall isn't news. I've tried to debunk the report here:
But, really, would you read a news story that said something like "Earth extremely unlikely to fall out of orbit" or "Drinking water is harmless"? No, you'd read the story that said "Boffins prove probability that the Earth will fall out of orbit" (1 in a billion trillion) or "Local man dies from drinking water" (local to Outer Mongolia, and he fell in a river while drinking from it).