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Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Informatics professors' WiFi malware study published in top journal

Feb. 4, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The recent work of Indiana University informatics professors Steven Myers and Alex Vespignani on WiFi malware spreading has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), one of the world's most cited multidisciplinary scientific serials.

Steven Myers

Steven Myers

The paper, titled "WiFi Networks and Malware Epidemiology," is the result of an ongoing research project by the pair and two additional collaborators. The team created a model based on principles of infectious disease to study how malware might spread through a WiFi network, based on current insecure installations. 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 by bringing encryption rates to a given threshold value, even in densely populated areas, large epidemics can be effectively halted, unlike in wired networks.

Alessandro Vespignani

Alessandro Vespignani

"This project is an excellent example of true interdisciplinary collaboration," said Myers, adding that researchers from the cyber security group worked with researchers from the complex systems group to generate these findings. "The interdisciplinary approach of the School of Informatics makes such projects plausible."

"Publication in the PNAS is a significant achievement," said Geoffrey Fox, chair of the Department of Informatics. "Professors Myers and Vespignani should be very proud that their work has been recognized and acknowledged in this way."

IU School of Informatics

Founded in 2000 as the first school of its kind in the United States, the Indiana University School of Informatics is dedicated to research and teaching across a broad range of computing and information technology, with emphases on science, applications and societal implications. The school includes the departments of Computer Science and Informatics on the Bloomington campus and Informatics on the IUPUI campus. The school administers a variety of bachelor's and master's degree programs in computer science and informatics, as well as Ph.D. programs in computer science and the first-ever Ph.D. in informatics. The school is dedicated to excellence in education and research, to partnerships that bolster economic development and entrepreneurship, and to increasing opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities in computing and technology. For more information, visit

To speak with Vespignani or Myers contact Lisa Herrmann, School of Informatics manager of communications, at 812-855-4125, or