Airborne computer virus that spreads like a cold

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Computer viruses are frustrating because they can steal and destroy personal data.

Researchers have just created a computer virus that can transmit through a wireless connection! Don’t turn on your airplane mode just yet, though; the reason they created such an evil program was to develop software that can actually protect computers from similar threats in the future.

The “Chameleon” – as the virus was named-  works by finding an Access Point (AP) – a source of wifi signal. If that particular AP still uses the original default password, Chameleon can hack into it and steal a ton of data. That’s not what makes the virus unique, however. Once it’s settled in the AP, it can spread to devices connected to that WiFi and other sources at will – no human commands needed!

The researchers unleashed the Chameleon in a controlled university lab and found it spread among the computers like a cold among humans. And just like a bodily infection, the computer virus spreads faster in dense cities where access points are packed closer together. If hackers were to release a similar program, it would wreak havoc on households and businesses with inadequate internet security.

By collecting data from this experiment, researchers can better predict when an attack might occur, and possibly prevent it.

Featured image courtesy of the University of Liverpool.