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UK's most popular Wi-Fi router defaults to insecurity

Come and get it

Dunce cap

From the folks at security think tank GNUCitizen comes yet another demonstration of the insecurity that's present by default in the UK's most popular home broadband router.

By default, the BT Home Hub, which is manufactured by Thomson/Alcatel, uses a weak algorithm to generate keys used for locking down a Wi-Fi network. So weak, in fact, that Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) keys can be predicted in just 80 guesses on average. GNUCitizen has written a program to automate the guessing game, but has decided not to release it for the time being.

It's been known for some time that WEP is not a reliable way to secure a Wi-Fi network. But the GNUCitizen's research, which is based on work by ethical hacker Kevin Devine, takes this understanding a step further. It allows the router to be cracked without the use of special hardware or software that's a hassle to configure and use.

The research also affects those using the much more robust Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) to secure their BT Home Hub. Because the algorithm uses a predictable means to determine the WPA, an attacker can easily determine the pass phrase (should the default encryption key value be used).

GNUCitizen has exposed other weaknesses in the router, including a VoIP hijacking vulnerability and the ability for attackers to bypass password protections. BT fixed both those issues shortly after they were brought to light.

BT spokesman Adam Liversage said the company is aware of the weakness and encourages people to change the default settings of WEP with a pre-set wireless key to WPA with a random key. Liversage said BT didn't believe any customers have been affected by the default settings, although he didn't explain how the company could even know.

The company has published instructions here that walks customers through the process of securing the device. If you fail to heed them, don't say we didn't warn you. ®

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