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Threat of mobile virus attack real

By CNN's Diana Muriel

As mobile phones get fancier, security risks, like viruses, increase.
As mobile phones get fancier, security risks, like viruses, increase.

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CNN’s Diana Muriel looks at the latest gadgets on show. 

GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) -- Mobile phone operators say it is only a matter of time before the wireless world is hit by the same sorts of viruses and worms that attack computer software.

With an increasing amount of information being sent through wireless channels, new threats are opening up.

Nigel Deighton, of consultancy firm Gartner, said one reason computer software has been hit hard by hackers is that users often undo a lot of the security measures that systems' administrators put in place. This makes them more vulnerable to viruses.

"Unfortunately in this world, you can have a system administrator who makes a laptop very secure, but that makes it a little bit more difficult to use for the users," he said.

"They go in and they change the parameters, they undo all of the security measures or many of the security measures, that the system administrator put in place."

Hacking is also a problem and industry experts admit that a system that is 100 percent hacker-proof is yet to be invented.

Chris Bray, from IBM, said that while wireless technology is becoming more advanced, the number of potential threats is also increasing.

"They're getting to a point where the networks are becoming more intelligent. There are more places within a network, within a PC, within a wireless network, that you can actually break-in and so it's an increasingly difficult job to actually keep those people out."

Hackers have also discovered that many corporate wireless local area networks -- or LANs -- in major cities simply were not properly secured.

In the past 18 months, most of these holes have been closed. But in some European cities, signs have been chalked on walls indicating where, with your laptop, you could access the Internet -- through their network -- for free.

Microsoft this week launched its latest Smart Phone, a mobile that uses windows software to operate data traffic.

The company's Windows operating system has been on the receiving end of more than 60,000 viruses.

So far, the Smart Phone has been virus-free but even the company admits it is only a matter of time. Industry experts give it about two years -- maximum.

Gartner's Deighton and IBM's Bray were attending the ITU Telecom World conference in Geneva this week.

The trade fair -- held every four years and organized by U.N. agency International Telecommunications Union -- brings together corporate leaders, heads of state, government ministers and industry experts.


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