Once upon a time we had WEP encryption, and all was good, but then all became not good, because WEP was weak. So now we have WPA, and all is good again …Well, mostly.
WEP Encryptions Obsolete
WEP encryption’s main failing is that it’s possible to obtain the password just by capturing enough packets as they fly through the air; and that is exactly why they are mostly obsolete now. If you’re still using WEP, stop reading this right now and go get yourself a router with WPA2/AES. Okay, since you’re still here, I’ll assume you’re using some flavor of WPA encryption, all of which are extremely robust; but you’re not out of the woods yet…
In fact we’re only just getting started.
There are many attacks that can intercept your online communications, but this article is only dealing with what happens within your home network. As I mentioned, WPA encryption is rock solid, especially if you use a strong password made up of random letters and numbers. In fact, the longer and more random it is, the more secure your network will be – or at least that was the initial plan.
WPS: A Serious Security Flaw
Remember those times, when going over to a friend’s place and wanting to use their WIFI; how much of a pain it is to type in a long random password, especially on a smart-phone? There must be an easier way. Well, there is, and it’s called WPS or Wireless-Protected-Setup. Now you only have to key in an 8 digit PIN, or sometimes just push the button on the router. Happy days?
Well, yes and no.
Sure, you get the security of WPA without the pain of typing in the long key, but at what cost? Turns out it’s more than you might imagine actually. You see, it doesn’t matter how strong the encryption is if you’re able to bypass it. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and WPS has a serious security flaw. Whereas WPA encryption with a strong password could take thousands of years to crack, WPS can be cracked much more easily.
Featured Link: Cybercrime
The Trouble with Reaver
Anyone with an internet connection and even the most basic understanding of how to use a search engine is able to quickly arm themselves with the tool for the job, and it’s free. The program I’m talking about is called Reaver. Its sole purpose is to crack your WPS PIN, and it will. Your neighbor, or someone sitting in their car outside can simply point Reaver at your network, hit go, then sit back and relax till your password pops up on screen.
How does it do this? It’s actually very simple, it tries each and every possible PIN, and it’s not as laborious as it sounds. To you the PIN looks like an 8 digit number, but in fact its 2 separate 4 digit numbers and both are verified independently. To make matters worse the last digit is a check-sum, meaning the second half is only a 3 digit number! Already, Reaver only has to try 11000 PIN’s rather than 99999999. Let’s imagine for a moment; for each PIN attempt, the longest it will take to get your password is around 3 hours.
Some routers will lock you out if the PIN is entered wrong a certain amount of times in a row, but this lock is usually only temporary. While it does increase the amount of time in which an attack could take to possibly a week; this will not deter a neighbor who is able to leave a laptop whirring away quietly somewhere.
It’s also worth remembering that sometimes the PIN will be cracked very quickly, and 50% of the time, it will crack it in half the time. Once they have your PIN its game over, because it resets to factory default and can’t be configured by the end user. Once the PIN is known, Reaver will tell them the password in seconds, every time you change it.
Investing in a New Router
But I can turn off WPS right?
Perhaps, but even then, it hasn’t really disabled it to someone using Reaver. If you’re not 100% sure it’s totally disabled it might be better to invest in a new router without WPS. Richard Patterson over at Broadband Expert said:
This is a serious problem that the vast majority of users don’t even realize exists, they’re literally sitting ducks.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not prepared to take the chance of someone using my network without my knowledge. Not to mention, you’d have a very hard time talking you’re way out of it, if someone engaged in criminal activities via your connection.
The information you just read is very real, ignore it at your peril.