A Contagious Computer Virus That Spreads via Wi-Fi

Illustration for article titled A Contagious Computer Virus That Spreads via Wi-Fi

It's sort of your worst nightmare: a computer virus as contagious as the common cold that avoids detection and infects every computer on a given wi-fi network. You just pop into your local coffee shop for a latte and a little internet surfing, and you leave with a virus. This is scary!

Unfortunately, we now know it's not just scary but possible. A team of researchers from the University of Liverpool just created such a virus. They call it "Chameleon." As the name implies, it can hop from network to network without being noticed, targeting wireless networks that are the least protected. Areas that are more crowded are even more susceptible since they allow the virus to spread more easily. Coffee shops, then, would be an ideal target.

Very fortunately, Chameleon is just a simulation—for now. The researchers actually created Chameleon as a sort of warning about what hackers can now do. Previously, it was thought that viruses couldn't attack over the air. "But we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly," said Professor Alan Marshall in a statement. "We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely."

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It just makes you wonder what else is possible. Can viruses spread through streaming video? What about cellular networks? Are those susceptible, too? In a sense, the ways that viruses can be spread are limited only to the hackers' imaginations.

You should take solace in the fact that malware (probably) can't spread via sound waves. So at least there's that. [Univ. of Liverpool via BBC]

Image via Shutterstock

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DISCUSSION

Kind of old news... Don't worry though, it's really easy to avoid: just click on the wifi network that is actually for your house/place of business/whereever you are, do not click on the wifi network that is made up of weird, alien-looking symbols that are almost certainly not standard characters on your computer so how are they even displaying. Seriously, if you click the alien letters, you probably deserve a virus/have your brain sucked into some sort of computer vault void.