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The malware cleanup page

WARNING: if your Series 60 smartphone is infected with something nasty, then you've been careless with what you've chosen to install. Please be prepared to eat a little huumble pie and promise, hand on heart, to be more careful in future...

As mentioned previously in my main viruses article, there's no such thing as a Symbian OS 'virus'. On a PC, especially without a firewall in place, it's easy for viruses and spyware to silently install themselves and start doing nasty things, including infecting other PCs.

Malware install - Just say NoInstallations on a Symbian OS (Series 60, for the purposes of this article) smartphone all have to be accepted manually, including having the app's certificate and compatibility checked. So there's no way you can get infected without your knowledge and there's no way (in theory) for a piece of malware (malicious software) to spread. Which mainly explains why real world infections are very rare and why the anti-virus software companies are jumping up and down hyping up the threat in a bid to boost their software sales.

However, maybe you've been very unlucky and have managed to get 'infected' by something. Perhaps you were trying out that new game that a contact 'kindly' sent you by MMS or over Bluetooth? Perhaps you were trying to get a program for free by downloading it from a 'warez' (cracked software) site? Whatever. The question is, how do you get rid of the thing and how do you stop yourself being affected in the future?

The cleanup

I'm assuming that you're a relative beginner to Series 60 and Symbian OS (otherwise you wouldn't be in this mess in the first place!). An expert would hunt round the hidden System folder in the file system and delete the files necessary, but I'm going to recommend that you back up your data, wipe your internal and expansion disk and then put your data back.

  1. Synchronize with Outlook and make sure your PIM data is safe (Calendar, Tasks, Contacts, Notes).
  2. Make sure you've got a record of all Internet and Messaging access passwords and servers. You'll find them all in Settings | Connections and Messaging | Settings. These will need to be typed in (or set up over the air) again later.
  3. Copy any document, image/video and third party files (if any) to your desktop.
  4. Make sure you have a record of any reg codes for third party applications and have their original SIS installation files on your PC.
  5. If you need your SMS (text message) database retained, use PC Suite's Nokia Phone Browser to drag and drop copies of your messages onto your PC hard disk.
  6. You'll probably already have hard disk copies of the media files and other stuff on your expansion card - if you don't then now's the time to copy these as well.

Consider all this a panic-free test of your disaster recovery procedures for a lost or broken smartphone. There's no need to worry about the virus spreading up your PC link, Symbian and Windows applications don't mix!

  1. Now you're ready to reformat. First of all, use 'Tools | Memory' (or similar) to format your expansion card. Once wiped, extract it immediately in case it becomes contaminated by the malware.
  2. Now to format the phone's internal flash disk. See your smartphone manual for details, but on most recent S60 devices you simply hold down 'Green', '*' and '3' at the same time. Keep them held down while you turn the device on and count to ten before releasing the three keys. Then sit back and be patient.
  3. You should see a virgin smartphone. And of course clear of any malware! It's safe to put your expansion card back in now.
  4. Re-synchronize your PIM data from Outlook (or whatever you use).
  5. Re-install any third party applications, enter their reg codes.
  6. Copy back over your documents, images/videos and third party files, as needed.
  7. Enter your Messaging and Internet settings again. If you're not sure about the latter, your SIM card network operator can probably send them 'over the air' for free.
  8. If appropriate, drag and drop your backed up SMS items back into Nokia phone browser, so that they appear on the device again.

Avoiding 'infection' in the future

  1. Don't install applications from warez sites and other dodgy outlets. Stick to original developer sites or known good portals such as 3-Lib, My-Symbian or AllAboutSymbian (and many others)
  2. If you receive an application via MMS or Bluetooth or email and you're not 100.00% sure that it's something you really, really want, just delete it. If your finger slips and you press 'Yes' to accept it accidentally, don't worry, you'll get several more chances to cancel the installation.
  3. If you can identify the person/friend who sent you the file, please tell them about this page!