According to researchers, a threat may be lurking in your local Internet cafe. It’s called Typhoid adware, and works much like Typhoid Mary did. Typhoid Mary was the first healthy carrier of Typhoid Fever. She spread the disease to dozens of people near New York City in the early 1900s. “Our research describes a potential computer security threat and offers some solutions,” says associate professor John Aycock, who co-authored a paper with assistant professor Mea Wang and students Daniel Medeiros Nunes de Castro and Eric Lin. “We’re looking at a different variant of adware – Typhoid adware –which we haven’t seen out there yet, but we believe could be a threat soon.”
Adware is a type of malware that will sneak onto your computer – usually when something is downloaded. You know those fancy tool bars and cute screen savers you enjoy so much? Yeah… many of them are riddled with adware. The adware causes popups… and lots of them. Typhoid adware, however, needs a wireless Internet cafe or other place where users share a non-encrypted wireless connection in order to thrive.
“Typhoid adware is designed for public places where people bring their laptops,” says Aycock. “It’s far more covert, displaying advertisements on computers that don’t have the adware installed, not the ones that do. Typhoid adware comes from another person’s computer and convinces other laptops to communicate with it and not the legitimate access point. Then the Typhoid adware automatically inserts advertisements in videos and web pages on the other computers. Meanwhile, the carrier sips her latté in peace – she sees no advertisements and doesn’t know she is infected – just like symptomless Typhoid Mary.”
Make sure all computers in this type of environment are updated fully with proper Windows updates and have proper security software on board. You can find more information by reading the official paper that was released by the school.