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Symbian definition

Symbian is a discontinued mobile operating system (OS) designed for handheld devices, which was popular in the early 2000s. It was developed by Symbian Ltd., a partnership among several major mobile-phone manufacturers, including Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola.

See also: mobile malware, code signing, privilege escalation, spyware

History of Symbian

  • 2001: The first version of the Symbian OS is released. Symbian was originally conceived as a simple, efficient operating system for the emerging market of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). However, with the rise of mobile phones, Symbian pivoted to focus on this sector.
  • 2002: The Nokia 7650, the first Nokia smartphone to use the Symbian OS, is released. Nokia was the most prominent manufacturer to adopt the OS, using it extensively in its range of smartphones.
  • Mid-200s: Symbian has become one of the most popular mobile operating systems, controlling a significant market share.
  • 2007-2008: With the advent of Apple's iOS and Google's Android, Symbian starts to lose its dominance.
  • 2008: Nokia purchases Symbian Ltd.
  • 2010: To compete with the new platforms, Symbian undergoes a series of upgrades and updates, culminating in the Symbian^3 version. Despite these efforts, the OS continued to lose market share.
  • 2011: Nokia announces a strategic partnership with Microsoft, signaling the end of Symbian's reign.
  • 2012: The last Symbian smartphone, the Nokia 808 PureView, is released.
  • 2014: Nokia officially discontinues Symbian.

Symbian security issues

As any operating system, Symbian had its fair share of security issues.

  • Malware. One significant problem was the proliferation of malware. Symbian was targeted by various viruses and other malicious software. For example, the Cabir worm spread via Bluetooth and infected several Symbian devices.
  • Application signing. Initially, Symbian did not require applications to be signed. This allowed any application to perform any operation on the device, leading to security issues. Later Symbian ended up implementing mandatory application signing. However, the process was complex and received complaints for being too restrictive, which led to further problems.
  • Privilege escalation attacks. Some versions of Symbian were vulnerable to privilege escalation attacks. A malicious application could gain higher privileges than intended, thereby bypassing security mechanisms.
  • Spyware. Symbian was also vulnerable to spyware, with several reported cases of spyware applications available commercially. These applications could monitor users’ actions and relay information to a third party.