Ghost SSIDs…

April 30th, 2008 by steve

I can’t think of a better way to describe it than a “Ghost SSID.”

I am sitting in a conference center in Pittsburgh, and when I open my laptop, I see what appear to be several wireless networks available for connection. Free Public WIFI, hpsetup, and SUNY Geneseo. The guy sitting next to me tried to connect to each of these, but received limited — local access only. It’s not a real wireless access point — it’s an ad-hoc connection with a laptop, masquerading as Free Public WIFI. What’s up with that? Is that a virus?

Well, a little searching on Yahoo! brought the answer. It seems that under some conditions when Windows XP connects to a network, it remembers the SSID of that network and broadcasts it as an ad-hoc network. So someone in this conference center has recently connected to the State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo wireless network. That laptop is broadcasting the SSID, SUNY Geneseo, as an ad-hoc network. It’s not a real network — it’s a ghost of a network past.

Is there a problem connecting to this? Maybe. I guess it might give the other PC user access to your shared files, depending on your system settings. More likely, it will simply reproduce itself on your system and you’ll begin broadcasting the SSID.

So I guess while it’s not a virus, it is indeed viral.

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