Nokia: Our mobile phones can be hacked, but it isn't easy

IBM, McAfee and Symantec say mobile phones can be broken into, but it would take a sophisticated hacker

Can mobile phones be hacked? As that question is debated in the wake of a family in Washington, US claiming the phones it uses have been taken over by hackers, Nokia is weighing in. The company says it is possible -- but very difficult -- to hack into and manipulate phones based on the S60 Symbian platform it developed.

Nokia, which develops the Symbian phone platform used in its own brand of phones as well as some from Samsung, LG Electronics and Lenovo, says it's possible attackers could break into S60-based phones. But according to Daniel Shugrue, marketing manager of the S60 software platform, it would take a very sophisticated attacker to accomplish this.

"Is it technically possible? Yes, I'd agree that it is," says Shugrue, adding that he basically shares the opinions expressed by IBM, McAfee and Symantec that cellular phones can be hacked and manipulated by an attacker, though it's not easy to do and examples of actual cell-phone attacks are rare. Shugrue says Nokia had not received reports directly of its cell phones being taken off by hackers.

However, Shugrue says the most likely means an attacker would use to break into an S60-based data phone would be to tamper with it physically or by tricking the victim into downloading and installing malware through an affirmative action on the victim's part.

"The weakest link is the consumer," says Shugrue about the potential for Nokia phones to be hacked. "But as far as our customer experiencing anything like this, we've never heard that from a consumer."

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Ellen Messmer

Network World

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