Friday, January 30, 2009

WiFi networks - virus risk assessment

Wireless Networks Are Soft Virus Targets
see also Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

We’ve all gotten e-mails warning us about nasty computer viruses. Maybe you even have antivirus software installed on your machine. Well, now scientists say that our wireless networks are particularly vulnerable to infection, especially in densely populated urban areas.

The use of Wi-Fi routers has become increasingly commonplace, as more people get online at home, at school, at the coffee shop. And these wireless networks are an excellent target for computer viruses, because they’re always on, always connected to the Internet, and don’t have specific software to protect them.

The scientists simulated the infection of real wireless networks in a handful of U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Boston. They found that the infection of just a small number of routers triggered an outbreak, with the virus spreading to tens of thousands of routers within a week, most within the first 24 hours. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Wireless networks are weakened by a general lack of security, including a failure to change the default password. So if you want to keep your network virus-free, at the very least choose a password that’s hard to guess. Like Bosco.

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