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News

Wireless Security Auditor stirs up WiFi security awareness

Global Secure Systems (GSS) : 22 January, 2009  (Technical Article)
Release of password retrieval appliance for WiFi systems illustrates need for improved security standards to be applied to wireless networks
Global Secure Systems (GSS) says that the release of a WiFi password auditing utility by Russia's Elcomsoft should act as a wake-up call on the dangers of wireless insecurities to all IT managers.

'Elcomsoft caused a stir in IT security circles last year when it released a utility that supported accelerated `retrieval' of WiFi encryption keys, but the release of Wireless Security Auditor moves the wireless security ballgame on by several stages,' said David Hobson, GSS' managing director.

'At the very least, it highlights the fact that WiFI users need to be using more complex alpha-numeric passwords in order to protect their wireless networks, as well as consider wired connections wherever possible,' he added.

According to Hobson, the new software uses a wireless packet sniffing approach to the issue of encryption key retrieval, then uses up to four high-end graphics cards installed on a PC to significantly accelerate what is, to all intents and purposes, a brute force attack on a given WiFi transmission.

'Let's not beat about the bush here. If a user builds a custom PC with four high-end graphics cards and installs the 599 pound software, they then have a machine capable of tumbling wireless keys out of the ether and decrypting then in a matter of hours rather than months,' he explained.

Hobson says that, if a WiFi user has employed an eight character encryption key - currently the recommended norm for WPA - then Wireless Security Auditor can 'retrieve' the password within a few hours, effectively giving a user near on-demand access to supposedly secure wireless transmissions.

The repercussions from the release of this software, says Hobson, are that it drives a stake through the heart of the widespread usage of eight character WPA encryption keys as means of protecting WiFi transmissions.

'It's a wake-up call to IT managers. Pure and simple. IT managers should now move to 12 and even 16 character keys as a matter of urgency. It's not very user-friendly, but the potential consequences of staying with eight character keys do not bear thinking about,' he said

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