This first-of-its-kind virus replicates by sending MMS to people on handphone's contact list

A new generation of handphone viruses may be in the making as data security companies highlighted the first ever virus that spreads via multimedia messages (MMS).

Previous handphone viruses, such as Cabir, which was the world's first, spread only using localised Bluetooth connections.

In six months, it only spread to 16 countries.

However, the Commwarrior.A virus that has been making its rounds in the past week is more dangerous because it tries to replicate itself by sending MMS to people on the phone's contacts list as well.

If the user clicks and downloads the message, the virus that is believed to originate from Russia spreads.

Unlike computer viruses that spread quickly around the world via the Internet, handphone viruses have previously been limited by technology.

The mobile virus threat is seen as growing as software writers become more sophisticated and phones use standardised technologies that make it easier for viruses to spread across not just specific devices but the whole industry.

'I do not think this particular virus will be a big problem, but it is the beginning of a new era,' said Mr Mikko Hypponen, director of Finnish anti-virus research company F-Secure.

'It's revolutionary as all previous mobile viruses have been spreading either with some other software or only within a limited area, using Bluetooth,' he said.

However, industry analysts say that the handphone industry is not yet in serious jeopardy and can draw upon lessons from the personal computer world.

They also say that handphone operators should be able to stop a wider virus outbreak by screening for suspicious files.