Part III: What Threatens Wireless?
“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.” Niels Bohr
Indeed, both advantages and benefits are huge from wireless networks. The most significant advantage of wireless networks over wired networks is mobility, which when translated in terms of benefits offers the users the great deal of movement and flexibility. With wireless networks both end users, and people responsible for designing and creating wireless networks are listed among beneficiary groups. However, there is considerable disadvantage over wired networks as well. In relation to this, Maxim & Pollino (2002) are stating that “wireless technology brings significantly more threats than traditional wired networks” (p. 48). This in itself rises up very important consideration with wireless networks. Every time when opting for wireless networks, prior to designing and creating a wireless network its recommended to learn wireless technology threats. In relation to threats, Maxim & Pollino (2002) are saying that “we must realize the potential attacks that exist, so we can design our networks to prevent the common attacks and prepare our processes to mitigate the uncommon attacks” (p. 47).
Figure 1. Wireless Network Threats (Stallings, n.d.)
In the following lines, the up-to-date well known wireless networks threats are listed. The more we know about potential threats, the more secure we can make the wireless network.
The Uncontrolled Terrain – wireless networking technology due to its open networking nature, it’s prone to several types of attacks. According to Maxim & Pollino (2002), “current wireless networking technology offers little to control the coverage area, thus enabling attackers in the immediate vicinity of a wireless network to perform a number of attacks that are not found in traditional wired networks” (p. 48).
Eavesdropping – it’s a threat through which an attacker is able to intercept the data that is moing in wireless network. According to Newman (2003), “one of the most challenging security issues associated with wireless is the radio frequency (RF) emanation, thus denying access to these signals is difficult, since the distance they travel often exceeds the physical control of the organization” (p. 327).
Integrity – of the data inside a perimeter network represents the #1 task for system and network administrators in today’s networking world including wireless networks. Newman (2003) is stating that while “an intruder can modify, insert, replay, or delete user traffic on the radio interface, same can also occur accidentally by a legitimate user” (p. 328).
Denial of Service (DoS) – attacks in wireless networks are hard to prevent and stop. An attacker I still remember, while working as an IT instructor for education center back in 2002, almost everyday after 19:00h until some time after 22:00h we did not have Internet access. Based on the ISP replies, there was a big interference taking place between those hours, which is causing to shut down all communications in that area where we were located too. This lasted for about half year, until the solution came in the horizon. The ISP has changed the operational frequencies from 2.4GHz to 3.5GHz.
Injection and Modification of Data – according to Maxim & Pollino (2002), ““injection attacks occur when an attacker adds data to an existing connection in order to hijack the connection or maliciously send data or commands, in this way an attacker can manipulate control messages and data streams by inserting packets or commands to a base station and vice versa” (p. 51).
Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) – as it names describes is an attack that involves the placement of an attacker in between two users communicating with each other. Almost similar but still different to session hijacking attack, based on the comparison provided by Pfleeger & Pfleeger (2003) is that “the difference between man-in-the-middle and hijacking is that a man-in-the-middle usually participates from the start of the session, whereas a session hijacking occurs after a session has been established, which in turn makes the difference be largely semantic and not too significant” (p. 409).
Rogue Client – attack describes the attacker who is trying to steal the ownership of an existing client in terms of authentication credentials, and his/her device. In relation to this, Maxim & Pollino (2002) are saying that “after studying a client in the field, an attacker may choose to mimic or clone the client’s identity and attempt to gain access to the network and advertised services, or even the attacker may also be so bold as to steal an access device to attempt to gain access to the network” (p. 52).
Rogue Network Access Points – if I am allowed to drag a similarity with the man-in-the-middle attack, then I’ll call this type of an attack as Access Point-in-the-Middle. Attacker is setting up the fake Access Point in order to catch “sincere” clients who unknowingly are connected to this type of Access Point. “Sincere” clients easily will provide sensitive data, including authentication credentials.
War Driving – since lately the wireless networks are in expansion, than there are more and more unsecured and unprotected wireless networks available out there. An attacker equipped with a laptop or tablet moves around the block to discover open wireless networks. As soon as the attacker locates an unsecured Access Point, the attacker gains access and enjoys the different activities on the web “with a stolen credit card.”
Covert Wireless Channels – non-standardized and wrongly configured wireless devices are presenting a big threat for the mixed networking environments such as wireless and wired networks. It’s a responsibility of the network designers and implementers to be cautious of what devices are purchasing and setting up in their wireless networks. In relation to this, Maxim & Pollino (2002) are warning us that “due to the low cost of wireless access points and the ease of creating software-based access points consisting of a standard desktop or laptop computer and a wireless NIC, one must be vigilant in detecting incorrectly configured or unintentionally deployed wireless equipment on the wired network” (p. 59).
Listed above were just some of the well known types of attacks that are taking place now days in computer networks in general, in wireless networks in particular. The reality is proving that the list of existing wireless networks attacks is even longer, thus the demands for protecting and securing wireless networks are higher than ever. In relation to this, Hines (2006) says “a new study published by researchers at RSA Security finds that as the number of wireless networks located in some of the world’s largest cities is growing, so is the number of those systems protected by encryption or other IT defenses” (¶ 1). This was not the case in the past, as according to Hines (2006) “researchers found that businesses and consumers were often setting up wireless networks without thoroughly applying security measures” (¶ 2).
- Hines, Matt, 25 May 2006. “RSA Study: Wireless Network Security Tightens Up.” Retrieved on October 31st, 2016 from URL: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1967739,00.asp
- Merritt, Maxim & David Pollino. Wireless Security. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2002.
- Newman, C. Robert. Enterprise Security, 2nd Ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2003.
- Pfleeger, Charles, & Shari Lawrence Pfleeger. Security in Computing, 3rd Ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003.
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th Ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association 2001
- Stalling, Williams n.d. “Cryptography and Network Security” Retrieved on October 31st, 2016 from URL: http://slideplayer.com/slide/4546955/
Hope you’ll find this post informative.
peace and blessings,