Intelligent Machines

Modeling Malware Over Wi-Fi

Interconnected wireless routers could be vulnerable to viral attack.

Jan 28, 2009

The video above shows how a quickly a computer virus might spread through wireless computer networks in a densely populated area.

Alessandro Vespignani and colleagues at Indiana University used an infectious disease model to simulate the spread of malicious code, focusing on densely populated urban areas in the United States. Their software accounts for different types of Wi-Fi network security including encryption and password-protected networks and integrates data for the geographical locations of real Wi-Fi routers in urban areas in the U.S. Details of the research were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

To prevent an outbreak becoming an epidemic, the researchers suggest increasing in the proportion of wireless routers that have a high level of encryption and other security improvements such as better password selection.

The images below show a virus spreading through Manhattan at key stages:

After one hour.
Susceptible areas are shown in light great; infected
areas are red and areas where the virus has been
removed are dark grey.
Credit: PNAS
After six hours.
Credit: PNAS
After 24 hours.
Credit: PNAS