Refined version of attack using collected WPA2 handshakes can succeed in

Security researchers at Germany's Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) (located in Bavaria) have shown how surprising insecure hotspot password autogeneration is for Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iOS.

Using an iOS app written in Apple's own Xcode programming environment, the team set to work analyzing the words that Apple uses to generate its security keys.  Apple's hotspot uses a standard WPA2-type process, which includes the creation and passing of pre-shared keys (PSK).

The problem, is that the keys are generated based on small list of "random" words -- around 1,842 by the German teams' estimates.  Further, the random generator used is poor, so some words are picked more often than others.  Thus most hotspot passwords can be cracked very fast -- sometimes in as little as "50 seconds", according to the team.

iOS hotspot iOS hotspot

The team describes their app, available here, writing:

This app assists in generating an iOS hotspot cracking word list, which might be used in subsequent attacks on other hotspot users. The app also gives explanations and hints on how to crack a captured WPA2 handshake using well-known password crackers. Future releases might also automate the process of capturing and cracking hotspot passwords. As computing power on smart devices is limited, one solution is to involve online password cracking services like CloudCracker, to crack hotspot passwords on-the-fly.

Apple has a bit of a history of poor security awareness when it comes to passwords; at one point it was storing the passwords for some OS X features in plaintext.  But less Apple be singled out too much for admonishment, the team also writes that other mobile operating systems appear to have similar flaws.  The team writes, "Spot tests show that other mobile platforms are also affected by similar problems. We conclude that more care should be taken to create secure passwords even in PSK scenarios."

Thus it's quite possible that similar security flaws could exist in Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android, which could be even worse, in practice, thanks to carriers' sluggish pace of security updates for Android.

In recent months hackers have also announced upcoming presentations on how to gain root access to iPhones via malicious (USB) chargers.

Source: FAU [Germany]

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