Chameleon, the First ‘Contagious’ Wi-Fi Virus: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Published:5:07 pm EDT, February 26, 2014| Updated:5:23 pm EDT, February 26, 2014|
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There's a new computer virus called Chameleon, and it's spreading quickly. Want to know why so many people are freaked about Chameleon? Here's everything you should know about this news story.


1. Chameleon Acts Like a Real Virus

Chameleon has raised so many eyebrows because it is, in effect, the first virus that spreads like a viral contagion in the real world. Chameleon spreads over Wi-Fi networks, hopping from network to network in crowded areas.

Gizmodo reports that the Chameleon story is interesting because of the questions it raises about other viral vectors.

They write:

"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."


2. Chameleon Was 'Born' at the University of Liverpool

It's odd that so many people are scared of Chameleon, because it's not technically a real virus. Chameleon is just a simulation of a virus, conceived at the University of Liverpool. However, it proves that a real-world virus that spreads through Wi-Fi could be really devastating.

Phys.org explains how the Chameleon test worked:

"Researchers from the University's School of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and Electronics, simulated an attack on Belfast and London in a laboratory setting, and found that "Chameleon" behaved like an airborne virus, travelling across the WiFi network via Access Points (APs) that connect households and businesses to WiFi networks."

Alan Marshall, Professor of Network Security at the University of Liverpool, explained to reporters that the Chameleon project proves the dangers of a Wi-Fi virus.

"It was assumed, however, 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," he said. "We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely."


3. A Chameleon-Like Virus Could Cripple Major Cities

The Daily Mail writes that a virus like Chameleon could be used to attack major cities. This kind of virus is particularly dangerous in environments where Wi-Fi hotspots are located within 10 to 50 meters of each other.


4. Chameleon Could Change How Anti-Virus Protection Is Deployed

Forbes makes the interesting point that Chameleon is so dangerous because it can hide in places where anti-virus software doesn't look.

Forbes writes:

"Most virus protection is sitting on endpoint devices like laptops, tablets and PCs and it’s looking for viruses on the internet or within the device, not on the network. The team designed Chameleon to sit only on the network, effectively invisible to security programs."

The introduction of the Chameleon virus simulation may force security companies to re-think how their security solutions are deployed.


5. Wi-Fi Routers Are Very Susceptible to Attacks

CNET ran an article last year about how many of the top router brands are so easy to hack.

Earlier this month, a bit of Wi-Fi router malware called "TheMoon" started making the rounds.

Both of these news stories show that Wi-Fi routers are in need of security improvements, particularly as viruses like Chameleon start to emerge in the wild.


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