We live in a fast-paced world where everyone needs to be connected all the time making Wi-Fi a necessity for many. This signal-based connection has always been deemed more vulnerable compared to wired connections, but the introduction of various security protocols developed over the years has made the transmissions secure.
Currently, there are three security protocols being commonly used:
• WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is an algorithm-based encryption protocol which is the most basic security you can get. We highly recommend NOT using it as it can easily be decoded
• WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) is developed by Wi-Fi Alliance to address the weaknesses in WEP
• WPA2 is an improved version that provides government-grade data protection and encryption. This is currently the most secure option available to consumers.
However, recent security research revealed a weak spot in WPA2 protocols that would make it possible for hackers to access your data. Dubbed as KRACK, or key reinstallation attack, this vulnerability exploits the 4-way handshake of the WPA2 protocol. This is much worse than previous vulnerabilities in encryption-centred security protocols. Not only could an attacker take your credentials and steal sensitive information including credit card numbers, passwords, photos, e-mails, etc., they could potentially manipulate your data!
How it works
Whenever you connect your device to a Wi-Fi network, an authentication process happens in the form of a 4-way handshake that works like this:
1. As the Wi-Fi signal is broadcasted, it sends a unique identifier message to your device.
2. Your device will send a unique identifier message back to the Wi-Fi access point. This will serve as an authentication request.
3. The Wi-Fi Access Point will then generate an encryption key that will be sent to your device as verification.
4. Once the key is received and installed, your device will send another series of unique key values to the Wi-Fi AP. You can now access the Internet securely using the Wi-Fi connection.
The KRACK hacker exploits this WPA2 protocol by copying the encryption key sent in the 3rd message of the 4-way handshake. The hacker can then keep sending this key to your device, forcing you to reinstall it every time which will give him access to your internet activity, stored data, passwords, and other sensitive information.
Worse, the hacker can also retrieve and manipulate your data. For example, if you have your own website and the hacker got hold of your credentials, he can insert ransomware or malware into it.
Since this attack is not based on encryption, it also has limitations. To be able to send the signal to your device, the hacker needs to be close enough to access your Wi-Fi signal. This limits your risk exposure to hacking. Still, this doesn’t mean that you’re safe!
What you can do
You are not entirely vulnerable from this kind of attack. There are some proactive steps you can take to keep your information secure:
1. Update your devices – although initially threatening, the vulnerability in the WPA2 protocols can be fixed through a simple update. As of now, several companies have already released patches that would protect their clients from this vulnerability. However, you have to make sure to not only patch your router but your devices as well.
2. Use a VPN – a virtual private network essentially works as a security layer that allows private sharing of data while using a public network. Although it does not make you entirely anonymous, it encrypts your internet connection making sure your personal information and browsing activity remains secure at all times.
3. Get professional help – if you think your connection has been compromised, it would be best to get an IT professional who can help you solve the problem.
The Wyntec team is ready to assist and take the necessary steps in addressing this kind of vulnerability. If you need help, don’t hesitate to talk to us at [email protected].