Chameleon is a new virus in town that spreads between unprotected or poorly protected Wi-Fi access points (wireless router) just like the common cold spreads between humans.
Wi-Fi access points (APs) are devices that transmit and receive Wi-Fi signal. In other words, whenever you are accessing Wi-Fi, your device is connected to a Wi-Fi access point (wireless router). These devices are often left unprotected or have poor security in place. Until now, it was assumed that it was not possible to exploit this type of vulnerability. A recent finding by a team of researchers at the University of Liverpool, however, negates this assumption.
In a lab setting, the team showed how a computer virus can hop from one Wi-Fi access point to another. They named the virus ‘Chameleon’.
Quick Facts about Chameleon – the Computer Virus
1. The team demonstrated how after infecting a targeted Wi-Fi router, Chameleon was able to collect data of users who were connected to it. The virus, however, did not have any effect on the working of the router.
2. Similar to the common cold virus, Chameleon spreads rapidly in densely populated areas which have more access points and are in proximity to each other. The rate of transfer is faster within routers that are 10-50 meter radius apart.
3. If Chameleon comes across an access point that is well protected, it moves to a more vulnerable AP that has low or no protection at all. This implies that wireless routers at public places such as restaurants, airports, etc., are highly susceptible to this virus.
4. After stealing user data from one compromised access point, Chameleon starts looking for other vulnerable APs it can attack and sniff information from.
Tips to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network
1. Secure your Wi-Fi network with Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2) encryption. Avoid using weaker encryption options such as WEP.
2. Turn OFF the SSID broadcast. This will hide your network from potential attackers and threats.
3. Change the default password of your wireless router. Create a password that has a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
4. Avoid using unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Even if you should use them, avoid accessing banking and e-commerce sites, and sites where you have to log in.
5. Do not let your device to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks. Turn OFF the auto-connect feature.
6. Turn OFF your wireless router when it is not in use.
7. Install a multilayered security software that can monitor Internet traffic between your device and Wi-Fi networks connected to it.
See also: The Dangers of Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks
Thankfully, Chameleon is only a proof-of-concept and limited to the lab of the University of Liverpool. But the fact that it is possible to create such a virus in the real world indicates that it’s time we took wireless security more seriously.