Once Thought Safe, WPA Wi-Fi Encryption Is Cracked

November 7, 2008 – 11:51 AM

Security researchers say they’ve developed a way to partially crack the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption standard used to protect data on many wireless networks.

The attack, described as the first practical attack on WPA, will be discussed at the PacSec conference in Tokyo next week. There, researcher Erik Tews will show how he was able to crack WPA encryption, in order to read data being sent from a router to a laptop computer. The attack could also be used to send bogus information to a client connected to the router.

To do this, Tews and his co-researcher Martin Beck found a way to break the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) key, used by WPA, in a relatively short amount of time: 12 to 15 minutes, according to Dragos Ruiu, the PacSec conference’s organizer.

They have not, however, managed to crack the encryption keys used to secure data that goes from the PC to the router in this particular attack

Security experts had known that TKIP could be cracked using what’s known as a dictionary attack. Using massive computational resources, the attacker essentially cracks the encryption by making an extremely large number of educated guesses as to what key is being used to secure the wireless data.


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