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Your Password-Protected Wi-Fi Isn't Safe From Snooping

16 October 2017

As Vanhoef demonstrates, KRACK seems particularly troublesome for Android and Linux OS's but he also clearly states in his discovery on his website, "if your device supports Wi-Fi, it is most likely affected".

"US-CERT has become aware of several key management vulnerabilities in the 4-way handshake of the Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) security protocol".

It's a common practice in the security world to notify vendors of an exploit before it is publicly released. So it might be that your router does not require security updates.

But Dr Steven J Murdoch, a security research fellow at UCL, told Sky News: "Many manufacturers do not fix vulnerabilities in their products which they are not actively marketing". Additionally, White noted, someone would have to be (somewhat) physically nearby the network to launch the attack.

On a website dedicated to the vulnerability, Mr Vanhoef issued a plea to tech companies to issue security patches to protect devices against the vulnerability immediately.

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These KRACK Attacks mean that most encrypted Wi-Fi networks out there are not as secure as think. However, one thing to note here is that the researchers asked users to continue using WPA2 as WPA1 is also affected by the flaw and WEP offers "worse" security when compared to WPA2.

While there's no indication yet that the vulnerability has been exploited in the wild, the Wi-Fi Alliance said it is urging device vendors to integrate patches quickly.

Android devices are most at risk due to the nature of the Android operating system, where it typically takes longer for software updates to be pushed out to users. And while even the researchers concede in their paper that some attack scenarios seem "impractical", tools to weaponize the attack are certain to follow.

The protocol used by the majority of WiFi connections is vulnerable, allowing traffic to be exposed.


During this hiatus in the handshake, the client may already have started communicating with the AP, because the two sides already have a session key they can use, albeit that they haven't finalised the handshake. The security of such keys relies on how random those numbers are, but Vanhoef's findings suggest they may not be random enough - to the point that predicting them may be possible. That means that the attacker can essentially join the network and pretend to be a client or the access point, depending on the type of access they want.

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Using a virtual private network (VPN) will encrypt all your internet traffic and could protect you from such an attack.

"The one saving grace is the attackers need to be within range of Wi-Fi networks", said Rudis. Once that's done, it is possible to decrypt network packets. The wpa_supplicant is the WiFi client commonly used on Linux and Android (6.0 and above).

While their paper was released earlier today, Vanhoef and Piessens submitted it in May for review by the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, set for October 30 - November 3 in Dallas.

Some vendors with vulnerable products have known about the issue since mid-July this year.

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