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Malware, wifi, indiana university, school of informatics, epidemiology, steve myers, alex vespignani


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Epidemiologic Model Shows Potential for Wireless Infection Spread and Prevention

Can a focus on epidemiology help create safer networks? Researchers at Indiana University have created a model based on principles of infectious disease to study how malware might spread through a WiFi network. Indiana University professors Steven Myers and Alex Vespignani, and collaborators Vittoria Colizza and Hao Hu, modeled that the spread of malware on common WiFi networks much as an epidemiologist would model the spread of disease in a population and determined that large “epidemics” of malware can be effectively halted by bringing encryption rates on networks to a given threshold value.

Illustration of the spread of a worm through Manhattan in several time slices.They accounted for different types of security commonly used in WiFi networks, such as encrypted and password-protected systems, and then divided the routers into three classes: susceptible (routers not infected with malware), infectious (routers transmitting the malware), and recovered (routers immune to the malware). They found that within two weeks, the malware had reached thousands of routers in the model. Finally they showed that, even densely populated areas, by bringing encryption rates to a given threshold value, large epidemics can be effectively halted, unlike in wired networks.

“This project is an excellent example of true interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Professor Myers. “The interdisciplinary approach of the School of Informatics makes such projects plausible – researchers from the cyber security group working with researchers from the complex systems group on a project that has generated such significant findings. The School’s interdisciplinary approach has really been beneficial.”



Steve Myers, (Indiana University)
Alessandro Vespignani, (Indiana University)


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