Cellphone networks, Botnets may soon turn many mobile phones into useless zombies.
Botnets are networks of hacked computers recruited to assist in cybercrime without their owners realizing that their cell phones are being hacked.
These networks can incorporate as many as a million computers and are used to send out spam email or even to extort money from website owners.
According to a report in New Scientist, the botnets use a software worm that targets cellphones and spreads by sending out text messages to all of a person's contacts, asking them to visit a weblink.
Although contacts have to choose to follow the link, the worm creates a bridge between mobile phones and the Internet, and suggests that mobile botnets may not be far away, according to California-based network security company Fortinet, in a report in their latest monthly report on current computer security threats.
The new worm, called Yxes.A or Sexy View, targets cellphones running the S60 3rd Edition of the Symbian operating system, such as Nokia 3250 handsets.
"Security threats against mobile devices are set to grow," said Derek Manky, project manager for cyber security and threat research at Fortinet.
"We are just starting to see the tip of the iceberg with Sexy View, but we predict much more to come with the growth of mobile platforms, applications and broader bandwidth," he said.
Although Sexy View can interfere with a phone's function, its main aim is to gather information such as the serial number of the mobile and a person's phone number.
That is relayed back to a remote server, but it is not yet known how that information is used by hackers.
"If the worm is upgraded to exert more control over an infected phone, it could lead to botnet-like networks of cellphones being established," said Fortinet.
Such networks could be used like existing desktop-based botnets, with many "zombie" phones coordinated by hackers - for example, in attacks against websites.