By Spencer Swartz
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The world's first mobile phone virus "in the wild" has spread to the United States from its birthplace in the Philippines eight months ago, a security research firm said on Friday.
The virus, called Cabir, has spread slowly into 12 countries and marks the beginning of the mobile phone virus era, which could one day disrupt the lives of many of the world's 1.5 billion mobile phone users.
The biggest impact of the relatively innocuous virus, found in about15 variations so far, is draining mobile phone batteries, said Mikko Hypponen, director of Finnish anti-virus research company F-Secure (FSC1V.HE).
Hypponen said Cabir was found on Monday in a technology gadgets store in Santa Monica, California, when a passing techie spotted a telltale sign on the screen of a phone in the store.
"It's interesting (the Cabir variant) has now been found in the United States, but it's not the end of the world," said Hypponen.
The mobile-virus threat will grow in the future as virus-writers become more sophisticated and phones standardize on technologies that make it easier for viruses to spread across not just specific devices but the whole industry.
The danger is small at the moment, in part because of the range of handheld technologies. This is unlike the personal computer world dominated by the Windows operating system made by Microsoft Corp.
Also, many handheld device makers have recently released new mobile phones equipped with anti-virus software.
The store owner's phone had also been infected, Hypponen said. Both devices were Nokia