What KRACK Means For Your Wireless Networks

Last week, news surfaced of a serious vulnerability with the Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocol that is used to secure the majority, if not most, protected Wi-Fi networks. According to the research, published by Mathy Vanhoef of the University of Leuven, the vulnerability lies in the 4-way handshake that is part of the WPA2 protocol, which can be manipulated to carry out man-in-the-middle attacks on network users, forcing them to reinstall the encryption key. Furthermore, Android and Linux devices can be tricked into reinstalling an all-zero encryption key, making it possible for the hacker to intercept and manipulate traffic from these devices when they are connected to the WPA2 network.

The implications of discovering such a vulnerability are huge as most modern networks are protected through the WPA2 encryption protocol, but there are a few caveats. For instance, in order to carry out a KRACK (Key Reinstallation Attacks), the hacker needs to be in close logical proximity to the Wi-Fi range. In addition, browsing over HTTPS may protect some traffic from interception, as it is protected with an additional level of encryption. Yet, at the moment, it appears that most devices that support Wi-Fi are affected, including Android, Linux, Apple, Windows, OpenBSD, MediaTek, Linksys and more.

So what are the implications of the discovery of KRACK for the enterprise network?

By manipulating the KRACK vulnerabilities, hackers (or even employees, guests and contractors) within close vicinity of the Wi-Fi network can eavesdrop and alter information being transmitted over the network. While the location caveat does have its benefits for smaller and tighter organizations, for larger organizations with far-reaching networks, it provides little solace.

Though little is still known about how the KRACK vulnerability will be addressed (or when a new secure wireless encryption protocol will be issued), there are a number of steps that enterprise IT departments can take to secure their data.

  1. Install the latest security patches and updates: This is a given, following any vulnerability, and should become standard practice throughout the enterprise. If possible, use a network access control solution to alert IT administrators and employees, when their devices are in need of updates, and enforce those updates by quarantining or blocking non-compliant devices until their security posture is updated. Also, regularly check for firmware updates that address WPA2 vulnerabilities across all connected devices and appliances.
  2. Look out for IoT devices: Direct attention to all connected devices – not just managed and BYOD devices – namely IoT devices that present a challenge as many of them cannot be patched or updated with the most recent firmware. Consider sandboxing IoT devices into a separate part of the network until a larger solution for the WPA2 vulnerabilities is reached. Currently, those organizations that depend on the data processing capabilities of IoT devices should be concerned and take all possible measures to protect and manage the security of these devices.
  3. Maintain consistent visibility into connected endpoints: One of the best ways to identify vulnerabilities is to maintain consistent visibility into connected endpoints. That way, if there is suspicious activity being carried out on the network, or if device specifications have been changed (good indications of a KRACK breach), IT administrators can take actions to control access for the device in question. Consistent visibility makes it easier to establish regular patterns of network behavior, providing important context when it comes to identifying and preventing cyber attacks.
  4. Consider wired networks: While these may seem like a thing of the past, in most organizations, wired internet connections still exist in some form. Encourage employees to connect their managed and professional devices over wired networks where possible, at least until firmware updates are installed and a remediation policy is put in place. For mobile devices and BYOD, ask employees to refrain from engaging in work-related activities over the enterprise Wi-Fi connection until the vulnerability is effectively addressed.
  5. Use WPA2 AES-CCMP as opposed to WEP, WPA/WPA2 TKIP and GCMP: The researchers identified that with WPA-TKIP or GCMP, hackers can not only decrypt encryption keys, but forge and inject new encryption packets. Therefore, it’s better to use a different encryption method until a more concrete solution for secure WPA encryption is reached.

The most important thing to remember about WPA is that there is no use in panicking. Most connected devices and enterprise networks are affected at this point. Mathy Vanhoef and his team at the University of Leuven have done us all a favor by informing us of the vulnerability, giving IT departments and security experts an opportunity to shore up their Wi-Fi security and take measures to prevent data loss.