Leading security vendor Kaspersky Lab has uncovered the first ever proof of concept virus designed with the sole intention of infecting the iPod media player. Like all proof of concept viruses though, Podloso poses no real world threat to users. For a start it requires a Linux installation, not on your PC but on the iPod itself which rather limits the number of devices likely to be capable of infection. Even if this requirement is fulfilled, the virus still requires user involvement to be launched from the program demo folder. Finally, if the user does execute the Podloso file it will then scan the iPod hard drive and infect all ELF (executable and linking) files which it finds.
And the payload? Well, an infected executable will fail to run and instead launch a message display box which says “You are infected with Oslo the first iPodLinux Virus.”
So if it is relatively difficult to become infected in the first place, requires more than a little user interaction, and has a relatively harmless payload is Podloso a cause for concern? Now that is not such a straightforward question to answer. Although there is an argument to say that this is just the beginning of the iPod virus invasion, and the lack of a malicious payload this time does not mean the next one will be harmless, I am inclined to think otherwise. After all, there is no mechanism for the virus to spread because it has to be saved into iPod memory in order to infect the device, it cannot jump from one player to another and cannot be distributed piggy-backed to an audio download for example. All it does is provide those who would knock Apple, and writers about security such as myself, with something to talk about.
The biggest security threat posed by the iPod and its users, however, remains that of bringing a pocketable hard drive into an otherwise secure location and using it to remove copies of confidential data from the PCs there. Indeed, some might well also argue that the infection of some video iPods sold after September 12th last year with a virus targeting Windows computers was a bigger problem than this, because that at least was a real virus causing real problems to the connected PC.