Get ready for a new inconvenience on your cellphone, and get ready for a new word in your lexicon: smishing. Smishing is an unwelcome cross between SMS and phishing, the scam that tries to trick users into handing over confidential details online. Which means that phishing could soon make its debut on your small screen. The antivirus specialist McAfee has warned of the new mobile threat after receiving a sample of a computer virus that instigates a smishing attack.

The virus targeted two major cellphone operators in Spain, sending messages that attempted to trick their subscribers into downloading free antivirus software for their phone, supposedly from their service provider. The message specifically targets Nokia Series 60 phones. Users who download and install the software from the link provided in the SMS will find their phones infected.

Evidence suggests that the threat was created using existing codes from a variety of sources on the internet. By targeting a network operator's SMS gateway, the messages can be sent for free, and details of how to hack those gateways are freely available over the internet.

"While this is clearly a proof-of-concept threat, there are some important warning signs for the mobile industry," said Jan Volzke, McAfee's senior marketing manager for mobile security. SMS scams had been around for years, but this was the first time a threat had jumped so easily from PCs to cellphones using a network operator's SMS system, he said. "If the code to create such threats is so easy available on the internet, it's only a matter of time before we see more dangerous smishing attacks."

Business Day