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Bring your laptop, leave your dictionary

A pair of security researchers claim to have partially cracked WPA encryption, with an attack that takes around 15 minutes.

The technique relies on an undisclosed “mathematical breakthrough,” say researchers Erik Tews and Martin Beck, and breaks the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) key used to encrypt data between a wireless router and its clients. Currently, the attack works only one way: data traveling from the access point to its clients is vulnerable, while data traveling in the opposite direction is not.

The only other known, effective attack against a WPA connection relies on computationally-intensive dictionary attacks, which involves testing wireless data against an extremely large list of educated guesses until one of them successfully decrypts the data in question.

Tews and Beck’s attack lowers these requirements considerably, allowing anyone with the knowledge, a laptop, and 15 minutes of time the ability to listen in on one side of a WPA-encrypted wireless connection.

CNet notes that Tews is no stranger to wireless hacking, as he also co-authored a 2007 paper (PDF) discussing how to crack a 104-bit WEP key in 60 seconds.

The duo will reveal their findings at next week’s Tokyo, Japan-based PacSec security conference in a presentation titled, “Gone in 900 Seconds, Some Crypto Issues with WPA”.

According to PC World, some of the pair’s research already is already appearing in wireless security tools.

Companies and internet users looking to keep their wireless networks secure will have to upgrade to WPA2 now, says PacSec organizer Dragos Ruiu.

“Everybody has been saying, 'Go to WPA because WEP is broken,'” he said. “This is a break in WPA.”

While it is too early to tell how the WPA attack will be exploited by criminal organizations, many companies are still in the process of transitioning to WPA from weaker standards like WEP, or no encryption at all. Hackers hit one such company, T.J. Maxx, in January 2007 from secured WEP access points; they ran off with one of the largest credit-card hauls in history and caused more than $200 million in damage.

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RE: Best encription?
By Chris Peredun on 11/7/2008 9:19:51 AM , Rating: 5
Ok, so what's the best encryption to date?


And what's in store for the future?

WPA3? ;)

what can you do to protect your connection without fear of something happening?

1. For the moment, use WPA2-AES as it hasn't yet been broken.
2. If you're paranoid, ditch the wireless entirely and go wired.
3. If you're really paranoid, stop using a computer.

RE: Best encription?
By xsilver on 11/7/2008 10:08:45 AM , Rating: 5
4. Start wearing tinfoil hats.
5. Cut out the middleman and anal probe yourself :)

Anyways - im not sure all these high security measures are for everyone, especially if they live in suburbia with neighbors that dont even use passwords or have ridiculously easy ones.

RE: Best encription?
By joeld on 11/7/2008 10:31:02 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Best encription?
By HrilL on 11/7/2008 11:20:40 AM , Rating: 2
yup The 3 main ISPs (COX, Verizon, AT&T) here when having their techs install a wireless router. Set the WPA key to the persons phone # and a little looking in the white pages for that address and boom you got it. It is pretty retarded but I guess it is more about making illegal to access their data then it is to really protect it.

RE: Best encription?
By MaulBall789 on 11/10/2008 1:09:39 PM , Rating: 2
What kind of encryption does the tinfoil hat use?

RE: Best encription?
By gamefreak32 on 11/7/2008 10:09:12 AM , Rating: 2
1. For the moment, use WPA2-AES as it hasn't yet been broken.

That is not true. A company has been using 2 GTX280s with CUDA to crack WPA2. If you have the money, you can buy the software for $600.

RE: Best encription?
By omnicronx on 11/7/2008 10:28:46 AM , Rating: 2
Don't always believe what you hear, these passwords being broken here were 6 to 8 characters in length, which regarldess of encryption only have so many password possibilities. With a 15+ charactor password, Even when you consider that the cuda was processing with a 100x speed increase, its still sitting at around 100 million passwords per second. Well a 15+ character key (with random charactors including upper and lower case) has a hell of a lot more possiblities than that, brute force would still be a gigantic number, probably in the billions of years to crack via brute force.

In fact a 15-20 digit key with TKIP will be next to impossible to crack, even with the breakthrough this article mentions.

RE: Best encription?
By AnnihilatorX on 11/7/2008 10:33:24 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention you can have password containing symbols like !,#,&
That's what I had been using. Long password + numerics + capitals + symbols.

RE: Best encription?
By gramboh on 11/7/2008 1:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, just use a 64 char random character key with all of the above, pretty much impossible to brutal force. Kind of a pain to type in on a device you can't easily copy-paste from (e.g. iPhone) but I find I am rarely typing in the key.

RE: Best encription?
By drebo on 11/7/2008 1:45:56 PM , Rating: 2
What the engaget article doesn't say is that they had 20 of those dual GTX280 machines in a compute cluster which allowed them to break WPA in a month instead of years.

WPA is not functionally crackable.

RE: Best encription?
By theslug on 11/7/2008 10:18:38 AM , Rating: 2
I have my router set to WPA2 and TKIP+AES, as opposed to the option that just says AES. Is TKIP+AES less secure? I set it this way because my laptop would never connect with it set specifically to AES.

RE: Best encription?
By omnicronx on 11/7/2008 10:32:36 AM , Rating: 2
WPA2 TKIP+AES means that it supports both TKIP and AES, they are not used in conjunction. Older devices that only support TKIP will fallback to using that, devices compatible with AES will use it as such. So if you are really worried about this security flaw, then yes TKIP+AES is less secure than just AES.

Of course I am pretty sure than you need to be using a TKIP device (other than the router) in order for them to intercept a packet, but thats a different story.

RE: Best encription?
By Mr Perfect on 11/7/2008 12:36:34 PM , Rating: 2
2.5 Use fiber lines when going wired!

Is it still true that you can't tap into a fiber network without killing the signal? Or have they come up with splitter devices to get around that, too?

RE: Best encription?
By HrilL on 11/7/2008 1:00:47 PM , Rating: 2
I believe they have those. Or you go to where the repeater is. But in a local network a splitter would work. But the problem with that is the link will be taken down for a short period of time and if a link goes down the router or switch should notify the network admin. While the link would come back up they would know that something happened and likely check the cables to see if it has been tampered with. Also I believe the decibel level will also be slightly lower and this will be a give away. This is very unlikely an option though as you would need physical access to the cables that are run in conduit or where it leaves that conduit in networking closet that should be locked and monitored. Good luck with doing all that. Fiber is by far the safest network medium to use.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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