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By Chris De Herrera 
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Pocket PC Antivirus Becomes a Necessity
By Chris De Herrera, Copyright 2004
 Version 1.00  Revised 11/14/2004

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During the past few months there have been the first two viruses that affect the Pocket PC, Windows Mobile 2003 as well as the Windows Mobile 2003, Second Edition. This article covers different scenarios where viruses affect the Pocket PC and possibly your PC and how to prevent them.

Pocket PC Viruses – WinCE4.Dust Proof of Concept

In July, the WinCE4.Dust virus was distributed by the elite hacker known as Ratter/29A is an example of a proof of concept for a Pocket PC Virus. The WinCE4.Dust virus does not do anything malicious to your Pocket PC. It even asks you if it can infect the Pocket PC before doing so. To better understand the details of how the WinCE4.Dust virus infects your Pocket PC, you may want to read “Details Emerge on the First Windows Mobile Virus (Part 1, 2 and 3)” Cyrus Peikari, Seth Fogie, Ratter/29A, InformIT for a technical explanation of why it can infect your Pocket PC.

Latest Virus – Backdoor.Brador.A Trojan

The latest virus was not so benevolent. The Backdoor.Brador.A trojan allows a remote user to upload, execute, list or delete files from your Pocket PC while it is connected to the internet. This is an example of the kind of viruses that can be created to run on your Pocket PC. This virus can be prevented by not installing programs from unknown developers. To better understand the details of how the Backdoor.Brador.A virus is doing to your Pocket PC you may want to read “Reverse-Engineering the First Pocket PC Trojan, Part 1, and 2” By Cyrus Peikari, Seth Fogie, Ratter/29A, Jonathan Read, InformIT  for a technical explanation of why it can infect your Pocket PC. With the release of the Backdoor.Brador.A virus in the public, users must now consider scanning their Pocket PCs for viruses.

Viruses Pocket PCs Can’t Catch

There is one type of virus that will not work on the current generation of Pocket PCs – the script based viruses seen in applications like Outlook. This is because the Pocket PCs do not have the scripting support that Outlook has in the OS. Also, the Pocket PC is immune to viruses that run on the PC. This is because the Pocket PC and the PC do not use the same microprocessor. The PC uses the x86 microprocessor while the Pocket PCs use the ARM microprocessor.

Indirect Transfer

Since the Pocket PC can now download programs as well as document files from the internet, e-mail, memory card or even ActiveSync, users may transmit viruses between their Pocket PC and their PC. PC based programs or documents infected with viruses will not infect the Pocket PC. However when these infected files are transferred to your PC via ActiveSync, e-mail or using a memory card reader, they can infect your PC. Also, infected Pocket PC files can be safely stored on the PC. This is because the PC cannot be infected by the same viruses that affect the Pocket PC. However when these infected Pocket PC files are transferred from the PC to your Pocket PC, it can be infected. So I highly recommend that users continue to use real time scanning of all files received or stored on your PC. Vendors such as McAfee, Trend Micro and Symantec offer comprehensive antivirus solutions for your PC. Just make sure you choose the option to update the antivirus definitions as often as possible.

Where do Smartphones Stand?

Right now there are no known viruses for Smartphones. So you may think the Smartphone is safe. However this situation can change at any time just like it did for the Pocket PC. Also, right now none of the Pocket PC AntiVirus applications are designed for the Smartphone. So it may require users of Smartphones to make backups and be careful before installing applications from unknown sources.

Antivirus Options for Pocket PCs

Applications such as McAfee VirusScan PDA Enterprise 2.0, AirScanner Mobile Antivirus, and Symantec Norton AntiVirus for Handhelds, Kapersy Security for PDAs offer scanning solutions for the Pocket PC. I am maintaining a list of the known viruses for the Pocket PC at http://www.pocketpcfaq.com/faqs/virus/virus.htm. This way you can keep up on the viruses that have been found for the Pocket PC.

Conclusion

Also, using a virus scanner on your PC and Pocket PC is just one step towards ensuring your computers are secure. You should also consider installing a software based firewall on the PC and Pocket PC like the one included with Windows XP, Service Pack 2 to protect your computers. Since we now have a real virus floating around in the internet for the Pocket PC, users must know where they are getting their programs from to prevent being infected in addition to using a virus scanner on their Pocket PC. 

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