Researchers at the University of Liverpool have shown that WiFi networks can be infected with viruses much like airborne illnesses spread between humans.
As reported by ScienceBlog, the team designed and carried out an attack by a virus named “Chameleon”. The virus did not just spread quickly between homes and businesses, but avoided detection and targeted weakened points specifically.
The attack was a simulated one on Belfast and London, and revealed that the Chameleon virus behaved similarly to a natural virus like the common cold. It travelled through WiFi networks via access points (APs) and infected hosts fastest in densely populated areas, where multiple APs are clustered together.
Silent but dangerous
Since Chameleon is only present in the WiFi network, virus detection systems failed to pick it up at all. If the virus discovered an AP that was encrypted and password protected, it moved on to another that wasn’t. Frequent victims were open networks like those in coffee shops and airports.
It had been assumed previously that it was not possible to create a virus that could attack WiFi networks. Chameleon has proven that it is not only possible, but that it can be incredibly effective.
The researchers at the university hope that their test will help the development of detection technology to prevent any real-world example from being released on the world’s WiFi networks.