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All Wi-Fi devices vulnerable to new threat
October 22, 2017, 4:31 pm

Researchers at Belgian university KU Leuven warned last week that a flaw they unearthed in the WPA2 security protocol, which is used by most modern Wi-Fi systems, could allow an attacker to steal sensitive data including emails, credit card numbers and passwords.

Depending on the network configuration, the flaw also could also allow an attacker to inject or manipulate information in the system; for example, they could inject ransom-ware or other malware into websites being used.

Since the weakness is in the Wi-Fi standard itself, and not in any particular product or implementation, it impacts nearly all devices that correctly implement the WPA2 protocol. In order to fix the problem, users need to update affected products as soon as patches become available.

Microsoft released security updates a week ago, and customers who have Windows Update enabled or otherwise have applied the updates are protected. Google says the company is “aware of the issue, and we will be patching any affected devices in the coming weeks.”

As a proof of concept, the researchers executed a key reinstallation attack (KRACK) against an Android smartphone, noting that Linux and Android 6.0 or higher were particularly vulnerable. Both operating systems can be tricked into reinstalling an all-zero encryption key.

The main attack is against the four-way handshake of the WPA2 protocol, the researchers said. The handshake takes place when a user wants to join a protected Wi-Fi network and the protocol is used to confirm that the client and access point have the correct credentials. The only silver lining to this is that an attack exploiting the WPA2 flaw would require the hacker to be close to the target. But then, many public Wi-Fi networks are at airports, malls, restaurants and hotels, where proximity between attacker and target is not very difficult.

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