Week 7 jumped away from snort and on to wireless communications. The lecture slides was particularly detailed, the key enhancements to be covered:

  • TKIP – Temporal Key Integrity Protocol
  • LEAP – Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol (according to most sources, becoming legacy to EAP-FAST)
  • EAP-TLS – Extensible Authentication Protocol – Transport Layer Security (A public key system for wireless lans using a RADIUS server)
  • PEAP – Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol – “PEAP is similar in design to EAP-TTLS, requiring only a server-side PKI certificate to create a secure TLS tunnel to protect user authentication
  • RADIUS – Remote Authentication Dial In User Service
  • 802.11 – (a,b,g,n) IEEE standardized wireless protocols 😀
  • 802.16 – IEEE standardize WiMAX [Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access] family.

So, to start with there is a bag full of acronyms which are all interlinked.

There seem to be a few fundamental problems when securing wireless networks:

  1. Devices connecting may have low computational power, ie: smart phones. (This is relative to desktops and servers so will most likely always be the case)
  2. Incoming and outgoing packets are broadcasted thus easy to intercept
  3. Users can be moving to between access points
  4. Performance requirements are high, people expect wireless connections not to be slow than wired connections

These points combined force the situation of weaker security.

The detail of the lecture was in covering the different forms of handshakes and authentication that are floating around at the moment… and all of their flaws. It will take a fair bit of time to really become familiar with these.

I get the feeling that wireless security is always going to be an issue simply because of the computing power mismatch between mobile and fixed devices in addition to the broadcast nature of the communications. The advancement over the past 5 years does however show that the band-aid approach is sufficient to facilitate most of the world adopting wireless networks.

WiMAX - The way of the future!