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'Phone Flu' Could Infect Mobile Devices

Researchers demonstrate ability of wireless devices to pass viruses through close proximity

Viruses and worms may spread between Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices in the same manner as flu viruses in humans, researchers say.

According to a news report, Christopher Rhodes, an expert on infectious diseases at Imperial College London, has partnered with Maziar Nekovee, a researcher at BT's research lab in Suffolk, U.K., to create a mathematical model to discern how a wireless computer worm could spread between portable devices.

In their study, the experts tested their theory in a crowd carrying Bluetooth-enabled phones. The people had to move in a line, and at a fixed speed. The researchers concluded that a phone infected with a virus has a fixed probability of infecting other devices while they are within range.

According to Rhodes, the spread of a wireless worm could be represented using a a standard mass-action mixing model -- a common tool for representing virus outbreaks. "The model is actually very similar to something like influenza," he said.

Experts are worried that a wireless worm might spread most efficiently in a busy setting, and might also hop between geographically distant locations via airplanes.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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