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FBI Teaches Lesson In How To Break Into Wi-Fi Networks FBI agents at a recent security conference demonstrated how

they could break int o a wireless network. They did it to prove how easy it was, and describe measure s that users need to take to protect themselves. By Humphrey Cheung, Tom's Networking Security Pipeline Apr 7, 2005 09:25 PM Millions of wireless access points are spread across the US and the world. About 70% percent of these access points are unprotected wide open to access by anyon e who happens to drive by. The other 30% are protected by WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and a small handful are protected by the new WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Acces s) standard. At a recent ISSA (Information Systems Security Association) meeting in Los Angel es, a team of FBI agents demonstrated current WEP-cracking techniques and broke a 128 bit WEP key in about three minutes. Special Agent Geoff Bickers ran the Po werpoint presentation and explained the attack, while the other agents (who did not want to be named or photographed) did the dirty work of sniffing wireless tr affic and breaking the WEP keys. This article will be a general overview of the procedures used by the FBI team. A future article will give step-by-step instructions on how to replicate the att ack. WEP Cracking - The Next Generation WEP is an encryption scheme, based on the RC-4 cipher, that is available on all 802.11a, b and g wireless products. WEP uses a set of bits called a key to scram ble information in the data frames as it leaves the access point or client adapt er and the scrambled message is then decrypted by the receiver. Both sides must have the same WEP key, which is usually a total of 64 or 128 bit s long. A semi-random 24 bit number called an Initialization Vector (IV), is par t of the key, so a 64 bit WEP key actually contains only 40 bits of "strong" enc ryption while a 128 bit key has 104. The IV is placed in encrypted frame's heade r, and is transmitted in plain text. Traditionally, cracking WEP keys has been a slow and boring process. An attacker would have to capture hundreds of thousands or millions of packets a process that could take hours or even days, depending on the volume of traffic passing over the wireless network. After enough packets were captured, a WEP cracking program such as Aircrack would be used to find the WEP key. Fast-forward to last summer, when the first of the latest generation of WEP crac king tools appeared. This current generation uses a combination of statistical t echniques focused on unique IVs captured and brute-force dictionary attacks to b reak 128 bit WEP keys in minutes instead of hours. As Special Agent Bickers note d, "It doesn't matter if you use 128 bit WEP keys, you are vulnerable!" On With The Show Before we get into the steps that the FBI used to break WEP, it should be noted there are numerous ways of hacking into a wireless network. The FBI team used pu blicly available tools and emphasized that they are demonstrating an attack that many other people are capable of performing. On the other hand, breaking the WE P key may not necessarily give an attacker complete access to a wireless network

. There could also be other protection mechanisms such as VPNs or proxy servers to deal with. For the demonstration, Special Agent Bickers brought in a NETGEAR wireless acces s point and assigned it a SSID of NETGEARWEP. He encrypted the access point with a 128 bit key made by just keying in random letters and numbers. Note that normally, you have to find wireless networks before you can crack them . The two wireless scanning tools of choice are Netstumbler for Windows or Kisme t for Linux. Since the other WEP cracking tools are mainly Linux-based, most peo ple find it easier to stick with Kismet, so they don't have to switch between Wi ndows and Linux. Another FBI agent started Kismet and immediately found the NETGEARWEP access poi nt. Just for fun, a third agent used his laptop and ran FakeAP, a program that c onfuses scanning programs by putting up fake access points. Attack! After a target WLAN is found, the next step is to start capturing packets and co nvert them into pcap (short for packet capture) format. These pcap files will th en be processed by other programs. Many programs, both commercial and open sourc e, can be used to capture packets, but the two favorites seem to be Kismet or Ai rodump (now part of Aircrack). Ideally, one laptop should be scanning, while ano ther laptop will be running the attack which is what the FBI team did. About half a dozen different software tools were then used by the FBI team, and they are listed along with their download links at the end of the article. Thankfull y, the Auditor's Security Collection, which we reviewed last year, is a live CD that has all of these tools already installed. Even the FBI likes this distribut ion.

How To Protect Yourself (Page 2 of 2) Apr 7, 2005 09:25 PM If a hacker is lucky enough to find an extremely busy wireless network, passive sniffing should provide enough good packets to allow the WEP key to be recovered . In most cases, however, an active attack or series of attacks are needed to ju mp start the process and produce more packets. Note that active attacks generate wireless traffic that can itself be detected and possibly alert the target of t he attack. The FBI team used the deauth feature of void11 to repeatedly disassociate the la ptop from the access point. Desired additional traffic was then generated as Win dows XP tried to re-associate back to the AP. Note that this is not a particular ly stealthy attack, as the laptop user will notice a series of "Wireless Network unavailable" notifications in the taskbar of their desktop screen. Another attack method the FBI team used this attack is to capture at least one to victim access point. This packet can ng the target AP to respond and provide is a replay attack. The basic premise of packet traveling from the victim laptop then be replayed into the network, causi more traffic to capture.

Aireplay (also part of Aircrack) can perform a replay attack based on captured A RP (Address Resolution Protocol) packets, which are broadcast at regular interva

ls in wired and wireless networks and are easy to spot. Aireplay automatically s cans a captured pcap file, pulls out the suspected ARP requests, and replays the m to the access point. After about three minutes of capturing and cracking, the FBI team found the corr ect WEP key, and displayed it on a projected notebook screen. Agent Bickers, sti ll speaking to the audience, turned around, looked at the screen and was surpris ed, "Usually it takes five to ten minutes." Countermeasures & Conclusion So what can you do to prevent hackers from getting into your network? Special Ag ent Bickers and his team have some tips for wireless users. He stresses that the se are mainly for home users and should not be considered as official FBI best p ractices for businesses. 1) Network segregation Put your access point on a separate subnet, with a firewa ll separating the wireless and internal users 2) Change the default settings on your access point Default settings (SSID, admi nistrator password, channel) are well known and even included as part of some WL AN attack tools 3) Use WPA with a strong key WPA is a definite improvement over WEP in providing wireless security. But the version intended for home and SOHO use WPA-PSK has a wea kness shared by any passphrase security mechanism. The choice of simple, common and short passphrases may allow your WPA-protected WLAN to be quickly compromise d via dictionary attack (more info here). 4) Update your firmware This is helpful if your AP or client doesn't currently s upport WPA. Many manufacturers have newer firmware for 802.11g products that add WPA support. You may also find this for 802.11b gear, but it's not as common. C heck anyway! 5) Turn off the WLAN when not in use A $5 lamp timer from your local hardware st ore is a simple, but effective way to keep your WLAN or LAN from harm while you' re sleeping. Bickers also said that if you have an access point that can swap keys fast enoug h, you may be able to stay ahead of an attacker. "Most likely they will get bore d and attack someone else." But for most WLAN owners, this method isn't practica l. The FBI demonstrated this attack to the computer security professionals at the I SSA meeting in order to show the inadequate protection offered by WEP. It is one thing to read stories of WEP being broken in minutes, but it is shocking to see the attack done right before your eyes. It was fast and simple. Thankfully, the FBI are the good guys. Tools Used Auditor's Security Collection - Contains all the wireless hacking tools already installed Kismet Airsnort Aircrack (includes Aireplay and Airodump) void11

Background WEP: Dead Again, Part 1 This article appears courtesy of Tom's Networking.



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