For the first time, researchers at the University of Liverpool have shown how WiFi networks can be infected with a virus that can spread through densely populated areas, like the common cold spreads among humans.
The research team designed and stimulated a viral attack called “Chameleon” and found that it could not only spread easily between homes and businesses but was also able to identify the Access Points (APs) at which WiFi access is protected by passwords and encryption.
Just as a gastro bug would, the virus multiplies faster when it enters densely populated areas because there are more networks to feed off.
The report said the virus’s tendrils are particularly capable of infiltrating less well-protected networks, such as free hot spots at cafes and public places.
“When “Chameleon” attacked an AP it didn’t affect how it worked, but was able to collect and report the credentials of all other WiFi users who connected to it. The virus then sought out other WiFi APs that it could connect to and infect”, Science Daily quoted Alan Marshall, Professor of Network Security at the University of Liverpool.
“Chameleon” was capable of avoiding detection from current virus detection systems that look for viruses present on the computers or internet. Chameleon strictly sticks to WiFi networks, especially open public access points such as cafes, airports or trains.
“WiFi connections are increasingly a target for computer hackers because of well-documented security vulnerabilities, which make it difficult to detect and defend against a virus. It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack WiFi networks but we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly. We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely”, he added.