Hand-To-Hand Combat

New software applications take aim at viruses that attack Palm OS devices

When the Trojan Horse virus hit handheld devices shortly before Labor Day weekend, it was cause for concern. Trojan Horse (also called Palm_Liberty.A) was the first known virus to attack handheld devices running the Palm operating system. It affected devices manufactured by Handspring, IBM, TRG, Symbol Technologies-and, of course, Palm.

Trojan Horse (not to be confused with the mythical wooden beast-or the PC virus) was written for an application called Liberty, which lets Palm OS devices run Nintendo Gameboy games. The virus was disguised as a file that converts a free shareware version of Liberty into the full, registered version. But when run, it attempts to delete all add-on or third-party applications.

“While this Trojan is considered low risk and has infected relatively few people, it is indicative of [viruses] to come,” says Patti Dock, vice president of marketing at McAfee .com Corp. in Sunnyvale, California.

Part of the problem is that standard antivirus and firewall applications cannot protect your handheld from viruses that may be introduced when you synchronize data between your computer and handheld device.

Palm users can now breathe a sigh of relief because leading software vendors are offering some level of protection. For $29.95 annually, McAfee.com’s Wireless Security Center delivers downloadable virus protection for Palm, Symbian, and Pocket PC devices. The VirusScan application scans for viruses each time you attempt to sync with your PC and blocks synchronization until you’ve deleted the destructive code. Guard Dog for Palms, monitors the transfer of data and protects passwords, files, and memory from virus attacks.

Additionally, Symantec Corp., in Cupertino, California, has just released a beta version of its Norton AntiVirus for the Palm OS. The program can detect a virus on a PC before data is synchronized to the Palm device. Palm OS users can download the program at www.symantec.com/avcenter.

If you’re not sure whether your device has the virus, here’s a quick way to check: set the Hot Sync Manager to Desktop Overwrite Handheld. This overwrites the infected files with a clean version.

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