Antivirus software maker Symantec Japan Inc., the Japan unit of Symantec Corp. of the United States, is in talks with NTT DoCoMo Inc. on supplying the mobile phone services provider with software to protect its i-mode Internet phones, Symantec officials said Wednesday.

Symantec has proposed that NTT DoCoMo install special antivirus software onto the semiconductor chips of i-mode handsets, which may soon be able to handle the popular Java computer-programming language, the officials said.

Should NTT DoCoMo make its i-mode phones Java compatible, it would end up making the handsets vulnerable to attacks by computer viruses designed to infiltrate Java-based equipment, they said.

Symantec also proposed NTT DoCoMo equip its computer in charge of facilitating i-mode-based e-mail communications with Symantec antivirus software, they said.

Symantec has notified NTT DoCoMo that the company needs to give its i-mode handsets the capability to repel possible attacks by cyber-criminals, who may develop a virus similar to the “Love Bug,” which infected computers by attaching itself to e-mail.

The developer of the Love Bug disguised the virus as a benign e-mail carrying the messages “ILOVEYOU” and “Kindly check the attached love letter coming from me.”

When users downloaded the attached files, the Love Bug set out ravaging graphic, sound and other files on their computers.

If NTT DoCoMo were to update i-mode handsets to the next-generation “IMT-2000” global mobile phone technical standard, it would give cyber-criminals an opportunity to break into i-mode communications and steal or destroy data exchanged via i-mode, they cautioned.

Symantec wants to help NTT DoCoMo and other mobile phone makers repel assaults by hackers, noting the tally of mobile phone users who access the Web via their phones is approaching 20 million people, they added.

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