Computer virus researchers at the University of Liverpool have announced that they recently created a computer malware that can spread in a manner similar to the ‘human cold’ virus, over the air, depending on the proximity of the infected host and an uninfected device.
This new malware, called "Chameleon," is so aggressive that it seeks the weakest or most vulnerable part of any computer network. It sits on the network absorbing the data and credentials passing through it. It can then migrate easily from one access point to another access point, and just like the human cold, it migrates more quickly in densely populated ‘access point’ areas. If Chameleon finds an encrypted or firewalled access point, it simply migrates to the next, more vulnerable source of access.
Because Chameleon resides on the network and not on individual computers, it's practically undetectable by most security software. To put this in perspective, anytime you're accessing a Wi-Fi network, you're connecting to an access point — the world is full of such points, and that makes this type of new malware potentially the most dangerous encountered to date. Leading consumer security software manufacturer Symantec declined comment regarding this potential new threat.
Chameleon is at present only a research proof of concept. University of Liverpool researchers simply proved such a malware was a reality. Now they are working to prepare countermeasures for the day that such a virus is identified within the real world environment.
But like other pathologic viruses cultivated in the lab, I find myself pondering the same question that Dr. Ian Malcolm posed in Jurassic Park; “your scientists were so busy trying to figure out if they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” History has shown that lab cultivated viruses somehow make it out of the lab and into the real world despite all attempts to keep them contained. One must wonder if Chameleon, which is so adapt at ‘migrating’ will find a way to break out into an outbreak as well. Let us hope not!