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Wireless LAN Security

Black Hat Briefings Mandy Andress

July 12, 2001 ArcSec Technologies

 Uses
 Benefits
 Standards
 Functionality
 Security Issues
 Solutions and Implementations

 Key drivers are mobility and accessibility

 Easily change work locations in the office
 Internet access at airports, cafes, conferences,

 Increased productivity
– Improved collaboration
– No need to reconnect to the network
– Ability to work in more areas
 Reduced costs
– No need to wire hard-to-reach areas

 IEEE 802.11
 IEEE 802.11b
 IEEE 802.11a
 IEEE 802.11e
 HiperLAN/2
 Interoperability

 Published in June 1997

 2.4GHz operating frequency
 1 to 2 Mbps throughput
 Can choose between frequency hopping or
direct sequence spread modulation

 Published in late 1999 as supplement to

 Still operates in 2.4GHz band
 Data rates can be as high as 11 Mbps
 Only direct sequence modulation is specified
 Most widely deployed today

 Also published in late 1999 as a supplement to 802.11

 Operates in 5GHz band (less RF interference than
2.4GHz range)
 Users Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing
 Supports data rates up to 54 Mbps
 Currently no products available, expected in fourth

 Currently under development

 Working to improve security issues
 Extensions to MAC layer, longer keys, and key
management systems
 Adds 128-bit AES encryption

 Development led by the European

Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)
 Operates in the 5 GHz range, uses OFDM
technology, and support data rates over
50Mbps like 802.11a

 802.11a and 802.11b work on different

frequencies, so little chance for interoperability
 Can coexist in one network
 HiperLAN/2 is not interoperable with 802.11a
or 802.11b

 Basic Configuration
 WLAN Communication
 WLAN Packet Structure
Basic Configuration
802.11 Communication

 CSMA/CA (Carrier Sense Multiple

Access/Collision Avoidance) instead of
Collision Detection
 WLAN adapter cannot send and receive traffic
at the same time on the same channel
 Hidden Node Problem
 Four-Way Handshake
Hidden Node Problem
Four-Way Handshake

Source Destination
OSI Model





Data Link 802.11 MAC header

Physical 802.11 PLCP header
Ethernet Packet Structure

•14 byte header

•2 addresses

Graphic Source: Network Computing Magazine August 7, 2000

802.11 Packet Structure

•30 byte header

•4 addresses
Graphic Source: Network Computing Magazine August 7, 2000
Ethernet Physical Layer Packet

•8 byte header (Preamble)

Graphic Source: Network Computing Magazine August 7, 2000

802.11 Physical Layer Packet

•24 byte header (PLCP, Physical Layer Convergence Protocol)

•Always transferred at 1 Mbps

Graphic Source: Network Computing Magazine August 7, 2000

Security Issues and Solutions

 Sniffing and War Driving

 Rogue Networks
 Policy Management
 MAC Address
War Driving

 Default installation allow any wireless NIC to

access the network
 Drive around (or walk) and gain access to
wireless networks
 Provides direct access behind the firewall
 Heard reports of an 8 mile range using a 24dB
gain parabolic dish antenna.
Rogue Networks

 Network users often set up rogue wireless

LANs to simplify their lives
 Rarely implement security measures
 Network is vulnerable to War Driving and
sniffing and you may not even know it
Policy Management

 Access is binary
 Full network access or no network access
 Need means of identifying and enforcing
access policies
MAC Address

 Can control access by allowing only defined

MAC addresses to connect to the network
 This address can be spoofed
 Must compile, maintain, and distribute a list of
valid MAC addresses to each access point
 Not a valid solution for public applications
Service Set ID (SSID)

 SSID is the network name for a wireless network

 WLAN products common defaults: “101” for 3COM and
“tsunami” for Cisco
 Can be required to specifically request the access
point by name (lets SSID act as a password)
 The more people that know the SSID, the higher the
likelihood it will be misused.
 Changing the SSID requires communicating the
change to all users of the network
Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
 Designed to be computationally efficient, self-
synchronizing, and exportable
 Vulnerable to attack
– Passive attacks to decrypt traffic based on statistical analysis
– Active attacks to inject new traffic from unauthorized mobile
stations, based on known plaintext
– Dictionary-building attack that, after analysis of a day’s worth
of traffic, allows real-time automated decryption of all traffic
 All users of a given access point share the same
encryption key
 Data headers remain unencrypted so anyone can see
the source and destination of the data stream
WLAN Implementations

 Varies due to organization size and security

 Current technology not ideal for large-scale
deployment and management
 Will discuss a few tricks that can help the
process and a few technologies under
development to ease enterprise deployments
Basic WLAN

 Great for small (5-10 users) environments

 Use WEP (some vendors provide 128-bit
proprietary solution)
 Only allow specific MAC addresses to access
the network
 Rotate SSID and WEP keys every 30-60 days
 No need to purchase additional hardware or
Basic WLAN Architecture
Secure LAN (SLAN)
 Intent to protect link between wireless client and
(assumed) more secure wired network
 Similar to a VPN and provides server authentication,
client authentication, data privacy, and integrity using
per session and per user short life keys
 Simpler and more cost efficient than a VPN
 Cross-platform support and interoperability, not highly
scaleable, though
 Supports Linux and Windows
 Open Source (slan.sourceforge.net)
SLAN Architecture
SLAN Steps

1. Client/Server Version Handshake

2. Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange
3. Server Authentication (public key fingerprint)
4. Client Authentication (optional) with PAM on
5. IP Configuration – IP address pool and adjust
routing table
SLAN Client

Client Application Encrypted Traffic to

ie Web Browser SLAN Server
Plaintext Traffic Encrypted Traffic

SLAN Driver Physical Driver

Traffic Encrypted Traffic

User Space Process

Intermediate WLAN

 11-100 users
 Can use MAC addresses, WEP and rotate
keys if you want.
 Some vendors have limited MAC storage
 SLAN also an option
 Another solution is to tunnel traffic through a
Intermediate WLAN Architecture

 Provides a scaleable authentication and

encryption solution
 Does require end user configuration and a
strong knowledge of VPN technology
 Users must re-authenticate if roaming between
VPN servers
VPN Architecture
VPN Architecture
Enterprise WLAN

 100+ users
 Reconfiguring WEP keys not feasible
 Multiple access points and subnets
 Possible solutions include VLANs, VPNs,
custom solutions, and 802.1x

 Combine wireless networks on one VLAN

segment, even geographically separated
 Use 802.1Q VLAN tagging to create a wireless
subnet and a VPN gateway for authentication
and encryption
VLAN Architecture
Customized Gateway

 Georgia Institute of Technology

 Allows students with laptops to log on to the campus
 Uses VLANs, IP Tables, and a Web browser
 No end user configuration required
– User access a web site and enters a userid and password
– Gateway runs specialized code authenticating the user with
Kerberos and packet filtering with IPTables, adding the user’s
IP address to the allowed list to provide network access
Gateway Architecture

 General-purpose port based network access control

mechanism for 802 technologies
 Based on AAA infrastructure (RADIUS)
 Also uses Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP,
RFC 2284)
 Can provide dynamic encryption key exchange,
eliminating some of the issues with WEP
 Roaming is transparent to the end user
802.1x (cont)

 Could be implemented as early as 2002.

 Cisco Aironet 350 supports the draft standard.
 Microsoft includes support in Windows XP
802.1x Architecture
Third-Party Products

 NetMotion Wireless authenticates against a

Windows domain and uses better encryption
(3DES) than WEP. Also offers the ability to
remotely disable a wireless network card’s
 Fortress Wireless Link Layer Security (WLLS).
Improves WEP and works with 802.1x.
 Enterasys provides proprietary RADIUS
solution similar to 802.1x
Client Considerations

 Cannot forget client security

 Distributed Personal Firewalls
 Strong end user security policies and
 Laptop Theft Controls

 Wireless LANs very useful and convenient, but

current security state not ideal for sensitive
 Cahners In-Stat group predicts the market for
wireless LANs will be $2.2 billion in 2004, up
from $771 million in 2000.
 Growing use and popularity require increased
focus on security
Contact Information

 Mandy@arcsec.com
 Presentation available for download at
www.arcsec.com and