First Airborne Computer Virus Infects Wi-Fi

A common cold can spread very quickly, especially in a densely populated area. Coughing and sneezing can send the virus into the air, infecting several people in a short amount of time. Now imagine a computer virus that can do the same thing. It doesn’t have to get directly into your machine. It can use a Wi-Fi network to affect every device in the area. An airborne computer virus was recently discovered that could potentially plague Wi-Fi networks everywhere.

The virus is aptly called “Chameleon” and it sneakily steals information from computers and other devices through the weakest points of Wi-Fi security. People use various wireless access points to connect to the Internet. When a virus is able to spread to all of these various access points in a densely populated area, a virtual endemic can ensue that can easily spread to larger regions.

This particular virus doesn’t do damage to the network itself or to the devices that connect to it. Rather, it steals the network credentials of anyone who connects to the network via the access point. So, how was this airborne computer virus able to spread undetected?

The fact is that nothing is designed to look for a virus at the access point. Viruses are always just on an individual machine or on the Internet waiting to be unwittingly downloaded. Chameleon is the first of its kind: It’s an airborne computer virus that hangs out on a Wi-Fi network itself.

These days, many networks are encrypted and password protected. The virus passes those networks by in favor of reaching an easy target. After all, there are plenty of coffee shops and Internet cafes that attract customers with an open Wi-Fi network. Once word of this virus gets around, however, more establishments may require patrons to get a password from the staff.