Virus Defense For Handheld Computers

Security vendors face a tough sell since attacks haven't targeted PDAs
Businesses are buying handheld computers by the boxload. But with this increased prominence comes increased security risks that several vendors are moving to address.

Symantec Corp. last week released the Anti-Virus for Handhelds line with business and consumer versions. McAfee Security, a unit of Network Associates Inc., this fall plans to release an enterprise version of its PDA antivirus software.

There isn't a big demand for enterprise products; only a handful of viruses have targeted handhelds so far. But that number is likely to grow as quickly as the number of handhelds. "It's an emerging threat," says Russ Cooper, senior researcher at TruSecure Corp., which provides managed-security services. "Viruses are written for platforms that are widely deployed."

Handhelds can gain some protection from McAfee, Symantec, and other vendors' current products that, for the most part, sit on a desktop computer and scan data sent to and from a handheld during synchronization. Symantec's new software runs on desktops, servers, and handhelds, where it actively scans any data downloaded to devices. It works with Pocket PC and Palm devices. It also offers centralized-management tools to push out new virus definitions and configuration changes. Wireless-enabled PDAs can be set to automatically download new virus definitions.

Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds-Corporate is available now; pricing varies by the number of seats and other factors. The consumer version is priced at $39.95 and will be available early this month.