Current virus detection systems look for viruses that are present on the Internet or computers. But this contagious airborne virus can badly hit less-protected open access Wi-Fi networks available in coffee shops or airports.In a first, researchers at University of Liverpool in Britain have demonstrated that Wi-Fi networks can be infected with a virus that can move through densely populated areas as efficiently as the common cold spreads among humans. The team designed and simulated an attack on Belfast and London in a lab setting and found a virus called “Chameleon”. Also Read - WhatsApp: How to set up two-step verification for more security
It was able to avoid detection and identify the points at which Wi-Fi access is least protected by encryption and passwords. “Chameleon behaved like an airborne virus, travelling across the Wi-Fi network via access points (APs) that connect households and businesses to Wi-Fi networks,” explained Alan Marshall, professor of network security at the university’s school of computer science and electrical engineering and electronics. Also Read - Here's how to ensure that your Google Accounts are secure
Areas that are more densely populated have more APs in closer proximity to each other, which meant that the virus propagated more quickly, particularly across networks connectable within a 10-50 meter radius. Also Read - Thousands of Android apps come with hidden backdoor: Report
While many access points are sufficiently encrypted and password protected, the virus simply moved on to find those which weren’t strongly protected, including open access Wi-Fi points common in locations such as coffee shops and airports.
“Wi-Fi 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,” warned Marshall.
The researchers are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely, said the study published in EURASIP Journal on Information Security.