Defcon Wi-Fi Hack Called No Threat to Enterprise WLANs

August 5, 2012 – 8:55 AM

Enterprise Wi-Fi networks can keep using WPA2 security safely, despite a recent Defcon exploit that has been widely, but wrongly, interpreted as rendering it useless.

The exploit successfully compromised a legacy authentication protocol, MS-CHAPv2, which was created by Microsoft years ago. But the vulnerabilities of this protocol (and other similar ones) are well known, and Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 makes use of additional mechanisms to protect them. That protection is still in force, according to both the Wi-Fi Alliance and a wireless architect, who blogged in depth on this issue after the Defcon exploit was reported.

In the wake of the Defcon demonstration, enterprises were being urged by some to abandon MS-CHAP, the Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP), WPA2 or all of the above. None of that is necessary. The Wi-Fi Alliance has reviewed the chapcrack tool and cloudcracker service announced last week at Defcon 20 and these tools do not present an exploitable vulnerability in Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products, according to statement issued by the Wi-Fi Alliance, via Kelly Davis-Felner, the WFA marketing director. These tools exploit previously-documented weaknesses in the use of Microsoft CHAP (MS-CHAP). All uses of MS-CHAP in WPA2 are protected by the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. TLS is the same strong cryptographic technology that protects all online e-commerce transactions. TLS prevents interception of the MS-CHAP messages used in WPA2 Enterprise and effectively protects against attacks using chapcrack or cloudcracker.

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