The “oh so scary” iPod virus is less proficient at spreading than the news around it. George Santayana was quite smart man. George was the guy who said “"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and the media has been repeating (as in retelling) history in reporting the “iPod virus”.
Modern day computer chips have a history in dedicated applications. Devices such as alarm clocks were built around microprocessors. These devices were not susceptible to viruses because of their restricted “operating systems” (and lack of memory too). The iPod is a microprocessor based device with lots of memory and a limited purpose operating system. Now give the microprocessor and memory a flexible operating system, such as Linux, and of course you can support viruses. You can probably write word processors for the Linux based iPods, games, and lots of other applications too. Look at what a smart person can do with Sony PS3s http://security-protocols.com/2007/03/17/ps3-versus-disease/. A virus, after all, is only a program. Some combinations of chemicals create chocolate, some create dung. The same goes for programs.
So, the big news is that if you take a microprocessor and some memory, remove the limited purpose operating system and replace it with a highly functional and flexible operating system… are you ready for this… it can run a whole bunch of different types of programs. Who ever could have seen that coming?
Director of Technical Education
Author ESET Research, ESET