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Friday
Sep122003

MS Smartphone a Future SMS Spam Threat?

MS SmartphoneThe other day, it hit me. After an informal chat with several friends, I realized that at some point in the future, MS's new Smartphone platform has a good chance of to becoming the equivalent of Outlook to SMS inboxes. Let me explain.

Consider this: Microsoft is pushing their new "Smartphone" platform, which offers users combined PDA and phone functions. Okay, so this is nothing new -- the Handspring Treo and other devices have offered integrated features for quite a while now. The problem lies not in the features or capabilities of a communicator or smartphone, but in its strength of security.

I think this could be a big problem for the Smartphone platform. When you consider Microsoft's track record when it comes to security, particularly when you consider Microsoft's security record when it comes to Outlook, I'm already worried. If you're saying "No Mike, it's not going to happen" then just count the number of "Re: Thank you!" and other SoBig messages (with 100k attachments) that have clogged your inbox lately.

Now envision thousands of MS Smartphone users with hundreds of contacts in each of their Pocket Outlook address books -- one of which might be your own phone's SMS address. It would only take one hacker to develop a virus that attacks the Smartphone OS or Pocket Outlook to send virus laden emails or SMS messages to every contact in its address book. Unfortunately, I can easily imagine this scenario occurring.

Once this happens, how exactly would one clear their SMS inbox that's full of spam messages sent by your friendly MS Smartphone user? As far as I know SMS gateways are controlled by phone carriers. That means making phone calls to customer service and trying to explain the situation so that your SMS inbox could be cleared.

Next problem is, how do you stop SMS spam from from continuing? Can a carrier provide new SMS addresses to customers? I know my SMS inbox is tied to my mobile number. And once the MS Smartphone user gets your new SMS address, how long until the next virus spams you? Or would you simply shut down your inbox for good?

What's worse, you may have to pay for SMS spam you receive! In fact, pay $0.10 per received and sent SMS message on my carrier's network. SMS spam messages could really add up quick.

I was surprised to learn from my friend Andy in London that commercial SMS spam is actually quite a problem in Europe, because SMS and text messaging are so popular. From what I understand, companies get your SMS address when you sign up for contests, then send off promotional SMS messages once they know you're out there. Apparently, some users get so much commercial SMS spam that they practically stop checking their SMS inboxes or switch phone carriers.

So how long do you think it will be before we see SoBig-like viruses attacking SMS inboxes via MS Smartphones? I dunno, but I'd guess it could very well happen.

Now, I don't know if a hacker could feasibly develop a virus to attack MS Smartphones. I don't know if the MS Smarphone platform has an underlying scripting language like Visual Basic or if it has security holes like Outlook. But then again, just a few years ago, nobody really considered this a problem with Outlook, did they?

Hmmmm...

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