GPU-powered general-purpose computing is causing all sorts of security nightmares these days, and wireless access points secured with WPA seem to be the latest victim. Elcomsoft, of “Advanced eBook Processor” fame, released a proprietary WPA/WPA2-PSK cracker that uses GPUs to brute force passwords in record time.
Elcomsoft claims its software can try almost 16,000 passwords per second (p/sec) with a single Radeon HD 4870, using an “advanced dictionary attack” that mutates entries from a master wordlist. Advanced hardware, such as the NVIDIA Tesla S1070 GP-GPU, raises the password rate to more than 52,000 p/sec – compared to an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU, which clocks at 1,100 p/sec.
The program, known as the “Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor”, claims it was designed for network administrators and IT personnel seeking to audit internal security, as well as external penetration testers and other “white hat” hackers.
While brute-force and dictionary attacks are nothing new, Wireless Security Auditor appears to be one of the most efficient solutions available. To work, it requires a tcpdump-formatted communications dump with at least one handshake packet. Elcomsoft says all processing is done off-line, and is completely transparent to the targeted network.
HotHardware notes that the way Elcomsoft phrases its “proprietary” dictionary engine most likely means that it doesn’t use third-party programming interfaces such as OpenCL, CUDA, or Stream.
Despite the massive improvements in scalability and processing power that GPUs offer compared to regular CPUs, a full-scale brute-force attack against all but the weakest of WPA passwords is still infeasible – the amount of time required to brute-force a 10-digit password, assuming the entire ASCII character set and the same password rate, would still take a Radeon HD 4870 over 2 trillion years. Even with optimizations – such as narrowing the possibilities down to 0-9 and the upper/lower cases of the English alphabet – the number of GPUs required to crack it within a year lies in excess of 1.6 million.
Elcomsoft lists Wireless Security Auditor for $1,199, however the software it is currently priced at $599.99 until March 1, 2009.
Late last year, security researchers announced that they were able to break weak SSL certificates using the computing power of 200 PlayStation 3s over a handful of weekends. The attack only applied to SSL certificates signed with an MD5 hash, as opposed to the more-secure SHA1 or SHA2 algorithms, but its effects are devastating: once cracked, the attacker can impersonate the certificate signing authority and generate fully trusted SSL certificates for any domain, for any browser that trusts certificates signed with MD5.