An early case of mobile malware provoked an interesting reaction from pundits: swift dismissal as much ado about nothing. In June 2000, users of mobile phones made by the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica began receiving strange text messages. The messages protested Telefonica’s activities, including its acquisition of the search engine Lycos, which the originator felt were monopolistic.
The messages came from an email worm, which security experts dubbed “Timofonica” in a play on words (“timo” means “prank” in Spanish). The worm spread via email attachment, sending the anti-Telefonica message plus a virus-containing attachment to everyone in a PC user’s address book—as well as to a randomly generated Telefonica phone number, exploiting an online SMS gateway. The virus was written in Visual Basic and attacked computers on which the Windows Scripting Host and Outlook 98 or 2000 were installed.
Although there was a fair amount of media coverage of Timofonica, the malware’s jump from PC to mobile was considered no big deal. ZDnet.com reported that contemporary phones lacked the complexity or processing capability to be negatively affected by a virus, though the article warned that “next-generation ‘smart phones’ that combine wireless and handheld-computer functionality” might be a different story.
At the end of the day, Timofonica’s scope was limited as it never spread beyond Spain. It truly was a protest of Telefonica operations.
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