Ethical Hacking? Home Computer Routers ‘Vaccinated’ by Benign Virus

Conventional wisdom would say that computer viruses are always bad; however, that man not be entirely true. Recently, unknown parties have developed a benign computer virus known as Wifatch that infects home computer routers and other smart devices running the Linux operating system (an open-source software) and “vaccinates” them against many forms of cyberattacks. The “benevolent” virus is fairly widespread, with tens of thousands of estimated copies around the world. It searches for devices that are either infected or vulnerable and hardens them against attacks.It operates by downloading software updates and protective programs and it even tries to disinfect devices already infected. It operates without prior notice to the devices’ owners, although it downloads a message urging them to change default passwords and update protections.

Symantec security analyst Mario Ballano comments that as far as Symantic can tell, “Wifatch’s payload has no malicious components and the growing network of compromised devices has never been used for attacks.” He adds that “Wifatch is a piece of code that infects a device without user consent and, in that regard, is the same as any other piece of malware… It should also be pointed out that Wifatch contains a number of general-purpose back doors that can be used by the author to carry out potentially malicious actions.”

Consumers who happen to find Wifatch on their computer routers should be grateful not harm has been done and that their system is more robust, but they also should verify their computer’s security and close off the backdoor access enabled by the virus.

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