Feeds

Wi-Fi Protected Setup easily unlocked by security flaw

Couple of hours of brute force will crack a network's PIN

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Security researcher Stefan Viehböck has demonstrated a critical flaw in the Wi-Fi Protected standard that opens up routers to attack and has prompted a US-CERT Vulnerability notice.

Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is used to secure access to wireless networks and requires each router to have a unique eight-digit PIN. One mode of use allows a device to connect by just presenting that PIN, opening the way for a client to just try every available PIN. Worse still, the protocol splits the PIN into two halves which reduces the attack time to a couple of hours.

Eight digits should produce 100,000,000 possible combinations, and testing various routers Viehböck found it took an average of around two seconds to test each combination. So brute forcing should take several years unless the router was particularly responsive.

But the protocol used by Wi-Fi Protected Setup reports back after the first four digits have been entered, and indicates if they are right, which means they can be attacked separately. The last of the eight digits is just a checksum, so having got the first four the attacker only then has to try another 1,000 combinations (identifying the other three digits) and the entire PIN is known.

That combination means that our attacker only has to try 11,000 different combinations to find the right PIN, reducing the attack time to a couple of hours.

In documented tests (PDF, surprisingly understandable) Viehböck found that of all the routers he tried only the one from Netgear had any sensible response to being repeatedly presented with incorrect PINs, slowing its responses to mitigate against the attack, but with only 11,000 combinations to try that only extended the attack time to a day or so.

Most services will start to slow up when incorrect credentials are presented repeatedly, but it seems router manufacturers have relied on the huge number of possible PINs to keep them safe. Hopefully that means a simple software fix, but until then the US-Cert is recommending that WPS be switched off, and going back to the MAC Address white list. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
'Kim Kardashian snaps naked selfies with a BLACKBERRY'. *Twitterati gasps*
More alleged private, nude celeb pics appear online
Home Depot ignored staff warnings of security fail laundry list
'Just use cash', former security staffer warns friends
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Freenode IRC users told to change passwords after securo-breach
Miscreants probably got in, you guys know the drill by now
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
BitTorrent's peer-to-peer chat app Bleep goes live as public alpha
A good day for privacy as invisble.im also reveals its approach to untraceable chats
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.