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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 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.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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