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The Department of Homeland Security suggests the only solution is to disable WPS

NETGEAR, Inc. (NTGR), Cisco System, Inc.'s (CSCO) Linksys, D-Link Corp (TPE:2332), and Belkin, Inc. are some of the biggest makers of routers.  If you own a router, there's a good chance you own a router from one of these manufacturers.  And if you own a router from them, there's a good chance you used Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) -- a PIN protected method -- to easily set up your home network.  And that means that there's a good chance your security is now at serious risk.

WPS was dreamed up by the Wi-Fi Alliance as a means of easing the pain of home networking.  But by including a flag in the EAP-NACK message, the standard unwittingly left a gaping hole that can be exploited by hackers to subvert your router.

The message tells the user if the first half of the pin they typed was right.  Thus it drastically reduces the time needed to crack the PIN using a brute force attack.  Add in that the last bit of the PIN is always its checksum, you have a recipe for a security disaster.

Linksys router
[Image Source: Best Wireless Internet Routers Blog]

The flaw reduces the time it takes to crack your average PIN from 108 attempts to 104+103 attempts (11,000 attempts total).  Assuming you can fire off ten requests or more a second, you should be able to crack routers in minutes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a warning to the public about the flaw.  It advises disabling WPS.  This may be a painful option for less savvy operators, though, as setting up a network with more sophisticated protections can require a bit of learning.

Stefan Viehbock discovered the vulnerability and reported it to the DHS.  He claims that none of the major manufacturers stepped up to the plate with a patch.  He is going to release a C-coded exploitation tool shortly -- perhaps that will help prompt the business into action.

Sources: .BrainDump (Stefan Viehbock), Department of Homeland Security

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Valid assumption?
By nafhan on 12/29/2011 1:28:50 PM , Rating: 2
Assuming you can fire off ten requests or more a second, you should be able to crack routers in minutes.
Is that a valid assumption? If that time goes up to say, 3 attempts per minute, (depending on the router, that may be more reasonable) it would take 2.5 days to crack this.
Either way, it's a pretty big flaw.

RE: Valid assumption?
By Labotomizer on 12/29/11, Rating: -1
RE: Valid assumption?
By winie on 12/29/2011 1:48:52 PM , Rating: 3
The limiting factor is how many requests the router can answer not your pc

RE: Valid assumption?
By nafhan on 12/29/2011 4:49:08 PM , Rating: 2
Have you ever logged into a router before? You are not going to be able to do that 60,000 times a second. Those kind of speeds are generally only possible if you've got the entire password database stored locally on the machine doing the cracking - not applicable in this situation.

Incorrect assesment
By Trisped on 12/29/2011 5:41:34 PM , Rating: 2
From the article and the original post at it is clear that this is only a WPS PIN issue, not a genera WPS issue.

For example, I logged into a Netgear WNDR3700 (N600), wnet to the Wireless Settings page (under Advanced), scrolled down to WPS Settings, and checked the "Disable Router's PIN" box.

I don't know about most users, but I do not use the PIN anyways, I would rather use either the Push-Button-Method or have another device connect to the router and push the button on the web page (Add WPS Client at the top of the list). The PIN idea seems stupid to me, since it is only 8 numeric characters long and I prefer longer network keys.

Of course I also enable the access list and WPA2 so I have at least a reasonable level of security.

By muhahaaha on 12/29/11, Rating: -1
RE: Tip
By Christobevii3 on 12/29/2011 12:59:44 PM , Rating: 5
Your mac is openly broadcast by your devices and can be grabbed by any tool just about even if the stuff is "hidden". Once you have that you just change the mac and done.

RE: Tip
By Kurz on 12/29/2011 1:14:24 PM , Rating: 3
Gave up on MAC Security because of this. I use WPA2 and a nice 10 digit pass.

P.S. MAC Security is a pain in the ass to set up.

RE: Tip
By augiem on 12/29/2011 1:44:56 PM , Rating: 3
Everyone who wants to use my wifi hates me because of my 60+ character preshare key. :D

RE: Tip
By 3minence on 12/30/2011 10:36:13 AM , Rating: 2
What a fool you are! My 8 character is better than your 60+ character password! Wrong you think? Within range of my house are 3 totally unsecured Access Points. Who in the hell is going to bother cracking mine when they can connect to the others without cracking anything?

In this case, security is relative.

RE: Tip
By tastyratz on 12/29/2011 2:07:11 PM , Rating: 2
agreed, the longer the password the better.
I think the biggest hump to get over is people always think of password but not passwords. the most secure password isn't because you put a ! or $ in it, it's the longest password you can remember. odd char and caps make it MORE secure, but a longer string of multiple words is better.

RE: Tip
By Hyperion1400 on 12/29/2011 2:50:26 PM , Rating: 4
Correct Horse Battery Staple
(f'ing spam filter better let that link through...)

Anyway, Jason, wireless networking doesn't have to be difficult, people MAKE it difficult by not reading the instructions and giving up immediately. I can walk just a about any computer illiterate a-hole that can use a browser through it, over the phone, without(!) remote desktop support, in about 10 min.

Netgear:>admin/password>cl ick "Wireless Settings" subcategory under "Basic">Type in what ever the hell you want your network to be called>Select WPA2-PSK>Enter in a pass and for the love of god remember it!

Linksys:>*blank*/admin>Basic Setup>Enter network name>Wireless>Security>Select WPA2 "Personal"(what ever the h*ll that means)>Enter in pass, same as above

Belkin: Buy yourself a Linksys or Netgear

All other brands: same as Belkin

RE: Tip
By iLLz on 12/29/2011 7:04:35 PM , Rating: 2
That Comic is wrong about the length of time it would take to crack that password. According to GRC's Password Haystack link posted in here by another, it would take 1.83 Billion Centuries to crack that password of Tr0ub4dor&3. There is capital and lowercase lettering and numbers and special characters.

Brute Force Search Space Analysis:
Search Space Depth (Alphabet): 26+26+10+33 = 95
Search Space Length (Characters): 11 characters
Exact Search Space Size (Count):
(count of all possible passwords
with this alphabet size and up
to this password's length) 5,748,
Search Space Size (as a power of 10): 5.75 x 1021
Time Required to Exhaustively Search this Password's Space:
Online Attack Scenario:
(Assuming one thousand guesses per second) 1.83 billion centuries
Offline Fast Attack Scenario:
(Assuming one hundred billion guesses per second) 18.28 centuries

What they did get right was that correcthorsebatterystaple takes longer with a time of 78.3 Billion Trillion Centuries, but that is only due to its length. Its 25 characters long but all lowercase lettering. If you add capital lettering and numbers and a symbol it makes it ridiculously long to crack.

Here is the one for correcthorsebatterstaple:

Brute Force Search Space Analysis:
Search Space Depth (Alphabet): 26
Search Space Length (Characters): 25 characters
Exact Search Space Size (Count):
(count of all possible passwords
with this alphabet size and up
to this password's length) 246,244,783,208,286,292,
Search Space Size (as a power of 10): 2.46 x 1035
Time Required to Exhaustively Search this Password's Space:
Online Attack Scenario:
(Assuming one thousand guesses per second) 78.30 billion trillion centuries
Offline Fast Attack Scenario:
(Assuming one hundred billion guesses per second) 7.83 hundred trillion centuries

RE: Tip
By iLLz on 12/29/2011 7:08:51 PM , Rating: 2
In the search space size to the power of 10 lines. They are:

5.75 x 10^21

2.46 x 10^35

Sorry the copy and paste didn't do exponentials properly.

RE: Tip
By Hyperion1400 on 12/29/2011 8:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
I really don't think they were intending it to be a mathematically perfect portrayal of brute-force hacking, but rather, an accurate analogy to disprove contemporary password logic. And, as you said, whether or not the math is right, the logic stands.

For my important stuff, like paypal, I use a 20 digit hex key...I don't think even God could brute-force hack that!

RE: Tip
By TrinityTP on 12/30/2011 8:44:41 AM , Rating: 3
No its correct. GRC's estimate is only valid if you pick numbers/letters/symbols at random. The point xkcd was making is people take a simple word "Troubadour" and replace a few letters with similar numbers and symbols "Tr0ub4dour" and add a number and/or symbol to the end. Common passwords have typically no more than about 2.5bits of entropy per character and a few number substitutions only add a few extra bits to the whole password.
Nobody would try to brute force the whole password keyspace as it would take too long so you use things like john-the-ripper to expand a common password dictionary with the standard substitutions people make.

So yet again Steve Gibson's security "advice" is less useful than a comic, he should have stuck to fixing hard drives he was actually good that that...

RE: Tip
By cochy on 12/29/2011 4:30:26 PM , Rating: 3
Good strong password creation tip here:

RE: Tip
By TrinityTP on 12/30/2011 8:48:10 AM , Rating: 2
Unless you can remember a truly random 10+ length password picked by a secure random password generator its not really good advice at all - more like highly misleading.

RE: Tip
By cochy on 12/30/2011 11:40:24 AM , Rating: 2
I don't follow what you are saying. What is misleading?

RE: Tip
By TrinityTP on 12/30/2011 8:05:55 PM , Rating: 2
Well at least Gibson specifies that it is not a strength meter (he's right it isn't) but calls it a keyspace meter instead (which is basically the same thing by another name). So having pointed out that is doesn't measure the password strength then goes on to describe how long it would take to brute force it. See the contradiction???

Keyspace (as calculated by that page) is irrelevant unless it represents the process of generating a key. For example, take a lowercase letter followed by 1234567879, that is a 10 character alphanumeric password but only has a keyspace of 26 (i.e. [a-z]123456789) and not (26+10)^10.
Basically don't reference that page (or that site), period. Ironically xkcd makes far better suggestions (as long as the password field is big enough).

For Wifi a 19+ length random mixed case alphnumeric password is basically totally overkill ( ~113bits of security) since with 4096 rounds of PBKDF2 hardening we are nearly at the 128bit security level (the level that even thermodynamically speaking would require the entire planet's energy output for nearly a decade for a perfectly efficient computer to simply count to that number let alone actually SHA1 hash something that many times). Makes 256bit security look a bit silly really doesn't it?

RE: Tip
By TrinityTP on 12/30/2011 8:29:11 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry Cont...
As far as his actual password generation advice goes: its complete drivel! People are far more predictable than we like to think (I have don't several password audits and EVERYONE uses the exact same substitutions - no sorry none of you are at all original). This the reason tools like john-the-ripper exist, Gibson is stating something know to be factually wrong. Do not use his advice, its very bad. Don't use words with substations they are just not secure. Ideally try Diceroll or failing that try dingbats type representations of a long nonsensical passphrase (that is unique to you) movie quotes etc.


Cheese but not Ties repel Cats because they are bigger than peas = Chse!&->"_">ppp
using "_" for a cat as it reminds me of the Cheshire cat in Alice in wonderland
and & for a tie

RE: Tip
By TrinityTP on 12/30/2011 8:31:22 PM , Rating: 2
Arrg sorry that should read "NO movie quotes".

RE: Tip
By Trisped on 12/29/2011 5:50:19 PM , Rating: 3
While your MAC is broadcast all over your LAN, those not yet on the LAN (or WLAN) will not yet know it due to encryption of your wireless network.

So in short, a MAC filter list is not a replacement for network encryption (like WPA or WPA2) but it can enhance the security of your network.

Note: I do not recommend WPA as WPA2 has been out long enough that everything supports it, and anything which does not probably has other security issues.

RE: Tip
By TrinityTP on 12/30/2011 8:57:07 AM , Rating: 3
No sorry, the MAC is sent in the clear even with encryption since its how your wireless radio knows the packet is intended for it.

MAC filtering is like a party with a strict guest list where the guest list is on a poster outside the venue.

RE: Tip
By ChronoReverse on 12/30/2011 12:15:24 PM , Rating: 2
And where the "ID" isn't something like a secured ID card or 3D facial recognition but a pencil scrawl on a scrap of paper =)

RE: Tip
By Alexvrb on 12/30/2011 7:58:30 PM , Rating: 2
I use smiley faces.

"Ah, Mr. Frown, we've been expecting you. Strangest thing, I thought I saw you go inside just a moment earlier with Mr. Big Grin. But what the hell do I know, I'm just a stupid router."

So yeah, if they can break your WPA2 (or bypass it entirely with an exploit like this WPS PIN fiasco), MAC filtering won't do jack.

RE: Tip
By TrinityTP on 12/30/2011 8:11:29 PM , Rating: 2
Reservoir Dogs had it right. You are Mr. Pink!

Abstract icons are just a bit too taxing for some these days...

RE: Tip
By Etsp on 12/29/2011 1:19:07 PM , Rating: 2
Considering that the source and destination MAC address is included in each and every ethernet frame sent, MAC address spoofing is really quite likely if that is your only security barrier. MAC Address filtering + WPA2 AES is fine though. I'm not sure if a MAC address filter would prevent this attack without spoofing though.

RE: Tip
By nafhan on 12/29/2011 1:20:20 PM , Rating: 2
This is kind of like locking your doors and putting the key under your door mat. It's better than not locking your doors at all... but barely so. Your MAC address can be spoofed easily by anyone willing to Google some VERY simple directions.

--Listen for MAC addresses with something like Nmap
--Change your MAC (on Windows, this involves merely editing a registry key)

RE: Tip
By drycrust3 on 12/29/2011 1:28:03 PM , Rating: 2
I prefer requiring users to need a password as well as all the other bits and bobs to access the system, e.g. WPA2-PSK. I know that isn't foolproof either, and that probably wouldn't be manageable for a business, but I can't see why one wouldn't use it around ones home. If someone needs WiFi access, then you tell them the password.

RE: Tip
By ChronoReverse on 12/29/2011 1:44:32 PM , Rating: 3
That's only a little bit more effective than turning off your SSID.

Which is to say, bristle-board thin instead of paper-thin security. I've even had devices that actually listed AP's with the SSID turned off.

If you have WPA2 security set up properly, MAC address filtering is more an annoyance than anything anytime someone comes over who doesn't already have access.

RE: Tip
By TrinityTP on 12/30/2011 9:05:15 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly, to put it another way: it will take longer to find your device's MAC, write it down, login to your AP and type it in than your attacker will take to clone it.

RE: Tip
By muhahaaha on 12/29/11, Rating: 0
RE: Tip
By ChronoReverse on 12/29/2011 3:46:25 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, WEP is also useless.

With just a couple minutes worth of packets sniffed out of the air and a few seconds of computation time, it'll have a good chance of being cracked.

Given 10 minutes where the WEP connection is actually being used and it'll definitely be cracked wide open.

Don't bother with all the sideshow stuff, just use WPA2 encryption (just don't use a silly password like "12345")

RE: Tip
By foolsgambit11 on 12/31/2011 7:56:15 PM , Rating: 3
That's the combination on my luggage!

RE: Tip
By althaz on 1/3/2012 4:41:25 AM , Rating: 2
Anybody who wants to and can use google can access your network in about an hour - assuming they need to learn what to do first :). WEP is completely useless and should never, ever be used if you are being serious about security.

MAC keeps your neighbours off (and WEP will do the same thing) unless they are very determined but it won't keep out anybody serious (or even anybody seriously interested).

WPA2 is the only way to go if you want to ACTUALLY secure your network :). It's super-easy to setup (unlike MAC-based security) - just choose a longish password that's easy to remember. Something like a cheat from your favourite computer game or a quote from a movie is basically impossible for a stranger to crack. "If it bleeds we can kill it" won't be cracked in the lifespan of your router, for example :).

By Dr of crap on 12/29/11, Rating: -1
By phatboye on 12/29/2011 1:13:59 PM , Rating: 2
If you don't care about Wireless security then this article was probably not meant for you

By Labotomizer on 12/29/2011 1:33:06 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, because no one in the suburbs has any malicious intent.

The reason you protect your network is more to protect yourself. If someone attempts to hack the FBI using your wireless network you have no way to prove it wasn't you. I've also seen a case where excessive piracy on a compromised wireless network caused the person's service to be disconnected.

Just a thought for you. And I don't see why WPS is supposedly easier than a WPA2 key anyway. Something as simple as "MyDogWearsCatPants1" will make it nearly impossible to crack your wirelss network. And who would forget that?

By BZDTemp on 12/29/2011 6:38:15 PM , Rating: 3
Actually I've seen an insecure wireless network used as a successful defense in court case. The anti-piracy lawyers was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt who had been downloading and sharing some movies - all they could document what internet connection was used and since the network was open...

That being said I agree one should protect ones network. Just imagine some perv parked outside using ones network and next you might end up in a sex offender database. Small risk but...

By inperfectdarkness on 12/29/2011 7:23:23 PM , Rating: 2
that's the same combination as my luggage!

By GTVic on 12/29/2011 4:47:58 PM , Rating: 2
Then if it doesn't apply to you ... why comment if you have nothing to say?

By delphinus100 on 12/29/2011 6:03:54 PM , Rating: 2
Ever heard of 'wardriving?'

It isn't necessarily your neighbors that you have to worry about...

Setting Up WPA2 Isn't Rocket Science
By Arsynic on 12/29/11, Rating: -1
RE: Setting Up WPA2 Isn't Rocket Science
By ApfDaMan on 12/29/2011 1:54:32 PM , Rating: 3

and yeah agreed. no reason not to use WPA2.

RE: Setting Up WPA2 Isn't Rocket Science
By Trisped on 12/29/2011 5:54:29 PM , Rating: 2
It seems to me WPS and WPA are separate technologies.
WPS helps you get on the network, WPA is how you secure the network. As such I do not understand your statment "and yeah agreed. no reason not to use WPA2." as you can use WPA2 and WPS at the same time.

By Camikazi on 1/1/2012 4:00:16 PM , Rating: 2
If you break WPS then you have access to the network. WPS does use WPA as security, but the flaw is in how WPS works so no amount of security in the world is gonna help you if the exploit lets you bypass it all.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
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