Malicious software code could infect an entire city in a period of several weeks by traveling over Wi-Fi networks that overlap each other, concludes a study by Indiana University computer scientists and researchers at the Complex Networks Lagrange Laboratory at the Institute for Scientific Interchange in Turin, Italy. The study found that the malicious code was able to spread over the networks because Wi-Fi hardware uses interoperable standards. Compounding the problem is the fact that many Wi-Fi users do not set up the security features on their routers and access points. However, the study noted that no hacker has yet taken advantage of the weaknesses of Wi-Fi to unleash a virus on an entire city. This is because the density of Wi-Fi networks has only recently reached the point where an epidemic outbreak would be possible, and because of the difficulty involved in writing malicious code for Wi-Fi routers.
The study's authors note that hackers could be prevented from transmitting malicious code via Wi-Fi networks altogether if Wi-Fi users used strong passwords and Wi-Fi Protected Access technology instead of Wired Equivalent Privacy protocols. If these security measures were implemented in just 60 percent of Wi-Fi routers, malicious code could be stopped before it spread through an entire ecosystem.
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