WiFi Epidemiology: Can Your Neighbors’ Router Make Yours Sick?

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In densely populated urban areas WiFi routers form a tightly interconnected proximity network that can be exploited as a substrate for the spreading of malware able to launch massive fraudulent attack and affect entire urban areas WiFi networks.

In this paper we consider several scenarios for the deployment of malware that spreads solely over the wireless channel of major urban areas in the US. We develop an epidemiological model that takes into consideration prevalent security flaws on these routers. The spread of such a contagion is simulated on real-world data for geo-referenced wireless routers.

We uncover a major weakness of WiFi networks in that most of the simulated scenarios show tens of thousands of routers infected in as little time as two weeks, with the majority of the infections occurring in the first 24 to 48 hours. We indicate possible containment and prevention measure to limit the eventual harm of such an attack.

Download the paper in PDF format here.