Wi-Fi Encryption insecure – WPA2 vulnerability affects all devices

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Two VERY serious security vulnerabilities came to light today (Monday 16th October 2017) which affect nearly all wireless devices.

The first vulnerability allows attackers to decrypt WPA2 connections. A second vulnerability also emerged today, more on that later in the post.

The Wi-Fi vulnerability is being called “KRACK”, which is short for Key Reinstallation Attacks.

WPA2 Wi-Fi Vulnerability

WPA2 is a protocol that secures all modern protected Wi-Fi networks.

Researchers at KU Leuven, a university in Flanders in Belgium, have discovered a way for an attacker to read sensitive information that is sent over a Wi-Fi network using WPA2.

Attackers can use this to steal sensitive information like credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos and more. The attack works against all modern protected Wi-Fi networks.

It may also be possible for an attacker to inject malicious information into the Wi-Fi network. This could include ransomware and malware.

The vulnerability is in the Wi-Fi standard itself, and not in individual products or their implementations. That means that all products that correctly implement the WPA2 standard are affected.

If your device supports Wi-Fi, it is likely affected by this vulnerability. 

Products that are known to be affected by this at this time include Android, Linux, Apple, Microsoft Windows, Linksys and more. The list of affected vendors is enormous, and vendors including Amazon, Cisco and Netgear are scrambling to release patches to fix this issue.

You can find out the technical details on the KRACK attack from the researchers themselves at krackattacks.com. This includes an academic paper and demonstration video, shown below:

What to Do About the WPA2 Vulnerability

This affects every device you own that uses Wi-Fi. If your device uses public Wi-Fi, you are at higher risk. The vendors that make your products are working on patches which they will release in the coming days. As they release the patches, you will need to update your devices and hardware.

The good news is that this vulnerability does not require you to replace any hardware. It is fixable through a software update.

The devices and hardware you will need to update, once patches are released, include the following:

  • Desktop workstations
  • Laptops/notebooks
  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets and e-readers that use Wi-Fi
  • Home and office routers
  • Home devices like NEST, Amazon Echo and Google Home
  • Printers, both home and office, that use Wi-Fi
  • Any other device that uses Wi-Fi

You should prioritize devices that use public Wi-Fi higher than your other devices. This puts mobile phones and tablets at the top of the list.

How to Stay on Top of Updates

Your desktop, mobile and tablet devices will prompt you when an important security update is available. Many may update automatically. Most devices also provide an option to manually check for updates. We recommend you do that periodically this week so that you catch any updates as soon as they are released.

For routers, printers and other “Internet of things” devices, you may have to sign into the device to manually update the device “firmware.” For routers, you can contact your Internet service provider for help if you are unsure how to update. You may need to consult the manual of other devices or do a Google search to learn if they are affected.

Second vulnerability

Another vulnerability known as “ROCA” was also announced today. This vulnerability involves an attack on public key encryption which may weaken the way we authenticate software when installing it. It affects many other systems that rely on public/private key encryption and signing. Fixing this also requires you to update your devices using vendor-released software updates, so keep an eye out for security updates for your devices and workstations that fix any ROCA-related issues.

It is imperative that we get the word out about these vulnerabilities so that our friends and colleagues can update their devices before they are exploited. Please spread the word.

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