Mobile Phone Virus Infects Helsinki Championships

Visitors to the world athletics championships in Finland have had to brave wind and rain, and officials say they now face the possibility of catching the world's first mobile phone virus.

Officials in mobile-mad Finland, home to the world's largest cellphone maker Nokia, said there had been outbreaks of the Cabir virus at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium.

"At most we are speaking about dozens of infections, but during a short period and in one spot this is a huge number," said Jarmo Koski, a security official at telecoms firm TeliaSonera.

Cabir, first reported in June last year, uses Bluetooth short range wireless signals to jump between cellphones.

That means it can spread over distances of up to 10 metres (30 feet), which in a packed stadium could include dozens of phones.

The recipient needs to accept a download to be infected and, while telecoms security officials say the risk of catching a mobile virus is small, thousands of phones have already been hit around the world.

"There must be a lot of infected phones at the stadium and a lot of Bluetooth traffic," said Antti Vihavainen, head of the mobile unit at antivirus software firm F-Secure.

"It is the early version of Cabir, which can infect only one phone at a time. Later versions of Cabir are much more fierce.

Since it was invented, the virus has so far spread to more than 20 countries, from the United States to Japan and from Finland to South Africa.

F-Secure says there are 55 viruses or other malicious programmes spreading between cellphones and other mobile devices.

Cabir drains the power of the infected phone as it tries to replicate itself on nearby mobiles but the most damaging viruses could disable a phone, requiring a factory reset.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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