An SSID is simply the name of a network. A viral SSID is an illegitimate ad-hoc or peer-to-peer network that is designed to look like a legitimate Wi-Fi hotspot. You may have seen them before while perusing available Wi-Fi networks at home, work, the coffee shop, or while traveling (particularly at airports and hotels). While not all of the following are always viral SSID, some commonly seen are “Free Public WiFi”, “Megahoc”, “hpsetup” and “default”. These are just a few in the sea of viral SSIDs that are out there. They thrive wherever laptops connect to Wi-Fi networks. Far too often these SSIDs aren’t actual Wi-Fi hotspots but another user’s laptop set to “Ad-Hoc” mode to propagate these viral SSIDs. It is understood that they spread from one infected wireless-enabled computer to another, usually by a user accidentally signing on to one or when an unsecured network or machine is exploited. The full intent and implications of this anomaly remain somewhat of a mystery, however, there many theories as to why more and more of these “Zombie Networks” are appearing across the World Wide Web. They could have been set up by an attacker with malicious intent to steal information, monitor your internet traffic, or in extreme cases, infect your machine with a virus that could open a “backdoor” to your home or company’s network. Another more sinister theory some believe is that cyber-criminals may be setting up a massive bot-network for, as of yet, mostly unknown purposes.
In any case, it is best to avoid these viral SSIDs if you can. Fortunately, there are some relatively easy methods of reducing risk to your machine and information from accidental connection to these rouge networks:
- The first and easiest is to only connect to wireless networks that you own or are positive are legitimate.
- Second, it is a good idea to remove any unknown or suspicious network names from your “Known” or “Preferred” networks list.
- Third, you can configure your network to only connect to Access point (infrastructure) networks only.
If you would like additional information on protecting yourself from Viral SSIDs, see the links provided below.