While many consumers were busy last week setting up new home computer and Wi-Fi gear they received for Christmas, the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team issued a warning that the popular Wi-Fi Protected Set-up security standard could be much easier to breach than anyone thought.
U.S. CERT issued the warning after researcher Stefan Viehbock discovered a way of simplifying the process of guessing eight-digit WPS PINs. Previously, testing the 100,000,000 possible number combinations for a single WPS PIN was believed to take several years. However, Viehbock's breakthrough theoretically allows a hacker to break a WPS lock by brute force in a matter of hours by reducing the total number combinations to about 11,000.
Viehbock said a design flaw allowed him to split the WPS PIN into two halves, the first half of which can be tried and confirmed before the second half (or, really, just the next three digits, according to an eWeek report). Viehbock tested the code-breaking process with several different makes of Wi-Fi routers, and found that most of them did not have a feature to limit the number of incorrect PINs that could be tried-arguably a bigger flaw than the WPS vulnerability.
This news could affect millions of routers and the devices accessing them. There is no apparent immediate solution to the security snafu, but the CERT recommended that consumers and businesses using WPS actually turn it off and set up security through WPA-2.
WPS was announced in 2007 by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and was seen as a way to greatly simplify the process of configuring devices for Wi-Fi access at a time when the technology was rapidly expanding into homes and small businesses where advanced IT and security help would be hard to come by.
- read this eWeek post
WPS was announced in 2007 to simplify Wi-Fi set-up
The number of Wi-Fi hotspots is expected to grow 350% by 2015