No, Your Kindle Can’t Catch a Virus

Here's 20110408-IMG_6508[1]one from the history books.This morning I came across a link to an old article by a Norton researcher. Way back in 2009, when the Kindle was still new and relatively uncommon, Michelle V. Rafter pondered the threats a Kindle might face, beit device theft, identity theft, or viruses.If that last option sounds silly in 2014, just remember that you're looking at it with 20/20 hindsight. In 2009 it wasn't such a crazy idea:

When the first Kindle appeared in 2007, Jesse Vincent was curious but not convinced the e-book reader with the 6-inch black-and-white screen was worth the hefty price tag. Two years later, Amazon introduced a skinnier Kindle 2 with longer batter life, faster page refreshes and room for 1,500 books. Vincent stopped resisting. “It was appealing,” the Somerville, Mass., software developer says.

...

E-readers use the 3G wireless network that cell phones use, and stripped down Web browsers to connect over the Internet to e-book stores. Some devices also let you connect to a laptop or desktop computer to upload or download files. As a result, it’s conceivable an e-reader could inadvertently catch a virus or worm from an email message, file or Web page. ... The reason is that hackers normally write viruses to target Windows-based computers because so many people use them, and since the number of people using Kindles and other e-readers is tiny by comparison, attacking these devices may not be as attractive right now to hackers, he says.

In case you're interested, the Jesse Vincent mentioned in the excerpt is that same developer who ported calibre to the Kindle 2 in 2009 (he called it Savory).

It's amazing how much things have changed, isn't it?

Just like there was a time that many insisted that ebooks could never supplant paper books in any way, 4 years ago people worried about viruses hurting your Kindle or other ebook reader.

So far as I know that has never happened. It's not just that I have never read about a virus being identified; I've never even read about a security researcher trying it just to see if it were possible, so the concerns about the issue were probably misplaced.

Four out of five experts agree that unprotected ebook reading on ebook readers is perfectly safe. And that's good news for all of us; it means we can stop using the Kindle condoms:

20110408-IMG_6508[1]

P.S. Reading on smartphones and tablets, well, that's another matter. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that these more general purpose mobile gadgets are easy targets for viruses, trojans, and other malware.

Norton

image via Gothick.org.uk

About Nate Hoffelder (11579 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

7 Comments on No, Your Kindle Can’t Catch a Virus

  1. Al the Great and Powerful // 12 February, 2014 at 3:10 pm // Reply

    I use one of those for my DX, It works a treat!

    It its good protection from rain (common here) and its how I carry the DX when I fly (slung over my shoulder, under my jacket).

  2. It is certainly *possible* to get a virus on an ereader. Most readers run modified (or even vanilla) versions of Android, which have had viruses before, and will continue to. There’s nothing about the platform which in any way excludes it.

    It’s primarily that ereaders are not particularly valuable to hackers, since they would generally be wanting something they could actually make use of (such as the processing power) to do their nefarious efforts, such as spamming farms and whatnot (that’s generally what they do with your pwned desktop or laptop). EReaders are generally underpowered and frequently asleep. Not a lot to utilize there.

    From a data perspective, there’s not a lot of interesting things to steal off an eReader either. Most eReader makers likely don’t store a CC on the device itself. There aren’t interesting files to grab either.

    Most of what is on a reader is on the cloud. And a hack to a cloud server gets you access to a lot more interesting data from more users. Why bother?

    • It’s possible, yes, but I’ve never heard of it happening. Just about the only people interested in even attempting this trick would be someone going for a piggyback attack on another more secure system – protected servers, for example. And there are easier ways to do that; drop a few infected Flash drives in the parking lot, for example (this shouldn’t work, but it does).

  3. My kindle has acquired a virus via an infected USB key which was used with my laptop. What the virus does is hide folders and instead create shortcuts. I’ve used an short programme that a computer-savvy friend installed on my laptop which has worked in the past with a similar virus: now the shortcuts have disappeared, but the Documents folder on the kindle still isn’t showing up. It’s there, but I can’t see it: and since I load books onto kindle by downloading them (usually from project Gutenberg) to my laptop and then transferring to kindle, I’m stuck now. Any advice?

  4. Hi, thanks for the quick reply. I may be misunderstanding the link, but as I understand it, it’s telling me to
    a. run a virus check on the Kindle: I’ve done this with Avast and McAfee, but they find nothing.
    b. copy the files I need to keep: I can’t do this because the virus is preventing me seeing the folder they are in, which is the “Documents” folder.
    and finally:
    c. reformat the Kindle: reformatting a USB key I understand, but reformat a Kindle? My Kindle apparently “needs” an upgrade (which I was trying to avoid) so I’ve just tried that, but it hasn’t worked – possibly because of the virus?
    Wondering whether to download the software from this site – http://www.fosshub.com/UsbFix.html – or whether there is a better way to get rid of this shortcut virus.

    • Problem solved: I downloaded http://www.kaspersky.com/antivirus-removal-tool?form=1 to scan and clean the hard disk, and then ran the command attrib -h -r -s /s /d drive_letter:\*.* to show the folders on the Kindle. Now there are a couple of files showing up on the Kindle that I don’t think were there before the virus (ENCRYP~1 and DONT_HALT_ON_REPAIR), I’m not sure whether to do anything about them or leave them there.

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