Telco carriers will soon be able to modify mobile phones remotely

By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Carriers and employers will have more control over what mobile phone users can access under new security software by Symantec. The new technology, which is still in the prototype phase, will allow carriers to access mobile phone handsets and disable applications that may be security risks.

According to visiting Symantec vice president Joe Pasqua, the proliferation of applications downloaded onto mobile phone handsets and the use of open operating systems has created new use risks for mobile phone users and carriers.

Symantec’s new reputation based security software for smartphones, which is designed primarily for use by the carriers, is intended to prevent previously unknown malware applications from being installed on handsets. Assessment of software risk is based on the age of the software and its usage levels, amongst other determining factors.

Once an app is deemed to be malware, the carrier can blacklist it, which will both prevent any user from installing it on their phone and uninstall the app on any phones that are currently using it. Should the app be deemed safe at a later date, the carrier can whitelist it, and users can then install it.

When asked if there was the possibility for carriers to abuse this power, Pasqua said he was relying on market forces to create sensible blacklisting patterns. This response did evoke some mutterings from the journalists present. Regardless, this piece of software would be a benefit for both user and carriers, should the software prove to work well and if the power is not abused.

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