As threats go this one is very small but the target happens to be one of the biggest in the digital world – someone has finally got round to writing an iPod virus.
This one is as obscure as the iPod is famous. Called ‘Podloso’ by its discoverers, Kaspersky Lab, the virus is rated as a proof-of-concept virus, which means that it has been created with the intention of testing out programming techniques for attacking the music player to see how they fare under real-world conditions. So far, the concept has been proven in only one respect, that of gaining attention.
The other qualification is that Podloso requires the user to be running Linux on the iPod, which increases its obscurity severalfold. It also has no payload, is rated by Kaspersky as unstable and difficult to run, and requires determined user interaction to do anything at all.
If launched successfully, the virus scans the iPod’s hard drive, infecting all executable .elf files. Launching these files causes a message to be displayed: "You are infected with Oslo the first iPodLinux Virus."
The creator obviously has a sense of humour. This isn’t the world’s first iPodLinux virus, it is the world’s only iPodLinux virus, and likely will remain so for a long time.
Although the company does not consider it a meaningful threat, the warning is still there in a general way. Getting malware on to the world’s iPods would be a major coup for any writer of malware, regardless of the ultimate damage caused. Despite the ubiquity of such devices – not to mention mobile phones – there have very few such pieces of malware.
“Overall, I don't think iViruses will cause serious problems in the future. The iPod world is very different from the PC and smartphone world. Users aren’t constantly installing new software and downloading a wide range of files, so that cuts down on the possible infection vectors. And what’s there to steal from an iPod? Multimedia files, and that's about all,” the Kaspersky researcher comments.
iPods are probably more a threat themselves than threatened. Gartner hates them for ability to ‘slurp’ corporate data, while only last year Apple had to issue a warning about an inadvertent inclusion of a Windows virus on a small number of iPod units.