Wi-Fi networks catch autoimmune disease, lock out legitimate users

Wi-Fi networks can be persuaded to lock out their legitimate users by an "autoimmune disorder" attack, researchers at the Defcon-16 security conference will show this week.

Wi-Fi networks can be persuaded to lock out their legitimate users by an "autoimmune disorder" attack, researchers at the Defcon-16 security conference will show this week.

Researchers from Airtight Networks will unveil how they compromised eight different wireless networks by persuading their security systems to lock out legitimate users.

This is similar to autoimmune disease in humans, which occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.

The presentation is about discovery of autoimmunity disorder, which can be triggered by sending specially crafted packets to some networks that use open source and commercial 802.11 application program (AP) systems.

The network control systems use various means to check the validity of messages to deter distributed denial of service (DDos) attacks. The researchers show hackers can exploit these checking systems to fool the software into believing its legitimate users are DDos attackers. This makes the AP turn hostile to its own clients. The researchers will show eight examples of this at Defcon. They will also show an example of a DoS attack against Cisco's Management Frame Protection (MFP (11w)).

"Although the proposed standard 802.11w promises immunity from DoS attacks, we show that autoimmunity disorder leaves a door open through which DoS attacks can still be launched," the researchers said.

Lead researcher Sohail Ahmad works on the mitigation of various security aspects of IEEE 802.11w and IEEE 802.11n standards and their implementations. He has also demonstrated the more potent form of Evil Twin Attack, "Multipot". He discovered the "Caffe Latte" attack, which retrieves a wireless encryption protocol (WEP) key from an isolated client without using its authorised access point.




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