Researchers at the
The team designed and simulated an attack by a virus, called Chameleon, and found that not only could it spread quickly between homes and businesses, but it was able to avoid detection and identify the points at which WiFi access is least protected by encryption and passwords.
Chameleon behaves like an airborne virus, travelling across the WiFi network via Access Points (APs) that connect households and businesses to WiFi networks. Areas that are more densely populated have more APs in closer proximity to each other, which meant that the virus propagated more quickly. “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,” said Alan Marshall, Professor of Network Security at the University.
The virus was not detected by current virus detection programs which run on the computer’s OS, Chameleon is only ever present in the WiFi network. While many APs are sufficiently encrypted and password protected, the virus simply moved on to find those which weren’t strongly protected including open access WiFi points common in locations such as coffee shops and airports.
“It was assumed 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.”