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Articles Tagged: Cellular architectures

Articles & Features

WiFi exposed

Over the past few years, IEEE 802.11 wireless networks have become increasingly widely deployed. Wireless LANs can be found in coffee shops, airports, hospitals, and all major institutes. However, as for conventional wired networks, the spread of such networks may have been faster than the diffusion of security knowledge about them. As a consequence, 802.11 is the new playground for many hackers, who are attracted to the environment by virtue of its anonymity. Attacks may be traced back to the wireless network, but the intruder could have been anyone driving by within the radius of the network, making it hard, if not impossible, for him/her to be traced. Securing wireless networks is a hard task, because the standard solutions do not work effectively in guaranteeing privacy and authentication, as this article shows; as a consequence, many wireless networks are left open.This article is structured as follows: initially, an overview of the 802.11 protocol is presented. This is followed by an analysis of the steps involved in connection to and use of such a network, first in the absence of encryption and then taking into account WEP. Attacks for these different scenarios are presented and analyzed, leading to the conclusion that WEP is unsuitable as the sole security measure for such links. Finally, attacks on wired networks that are connected to a wireless LAN are analyzed.The article concludes that existing standards for wireless security as applied to the most widely used wireless standard, 802.11, are inadequate in several ways, can be attacked using publicly available tools, and lead to a false sense of security. Some advice about mitigation of threats is offered throughout the article, but the most effective solution is awareness of potential attacks and the maximization of the amount of time and effort needed to break into the network by using defence in depth.

By Andrea Bittau, September 2004

PDF | HTML | In the Digital Library