A computer program known as "Skulls" with potentially destructive capability aimed at advanced mobile devices was seen as a low threat because it had not targeted consumers, security software maker McAfee Inc. said on Monday.
"(It) is a low threat but I think the significance is the fact this is the third threat this year targeting mobile devices," said Vincent Gullotto, vice president of the anti-virus emergency response team at McAfee .
Gullotto said Skulls was sent to security firms, not to consumers, as a so-called "proof of concept" a little over a week ago. Gullotto said Skulls was written for devices running on the Symbian operating system used by many handheld devices. The author of Skulls was not yet known, he added.
Software security companies and handset makers, like Finland's Nokia , have been gearing up to launch products intended to secure cell phones from variants of the Internet viruses that have become a scourge for personal computer users.
Computer security experts have said the threat of viruses to advanced handheld devices, like smartphones, remains small for now, due in part to the range of handheld technologies in the market. This is unlike PC operating software, which is dominated by Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.
McAfee classified Skulls as a "trojan horse," or a program that can lurk on a device without a user knowing it.
In June, Cabir, the first known worm written for mobile devices, was sent as a proof of concept to computer security firms to demonstrate the ability to hit handheld users with viruses.
If Skulls is installed on a device it will cause all application icons to be replaced with pictures of skull and cross bones, leaving a user with only phone capability, according to Finnish security software firm F-Secure .
Smartphones, with services like e-mail and Internet access, are seen as the biggest potential target in the handheld market for virus writers because of their ability to carry all types of data through outlets like e-mail.