Vulnerabilities / Threats

'Dragonblood' Vulnerabilities Seep Into WPA3 Secure Wifi Handshake

A new set of vulnerabilities may put some early adopters of strong Wifi security at greater security risk.

In 2018, the Wi-Fi Alliance released the first major update to Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) in more than a decade: WPA3. WPA3 offers more robust encryption and privacy, as well as a simplified process for devices to log onto a secure network. According to a pair of researchers,  the login process also includes vulnerabilities that could render WPA3 far less secure than is promised.

The vulnerabilities were unearthed by Mathy Vanhoef of New York University Abu Dhabi—one of the researchers behind the October 2017 discovery of the KRACK vulns in WPA2—and Eyal Ronen of Tel Aviv University and KU Leuven.

Vanhoef and Ronen write in their recent paper that there are flaws in the handshake process that can allow efficient and low-cost attacks on the passwords used as part of network credentials.

In particular, they write that the existing standards that the WiFi alliance chose for WPA3 brought both timing and cache-based side-channel vulnerability issues to the Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) handshake that is a key piece of WPA3's improvement over WPA2.

The SAE handshake is commonly known as Dragonfly; the researchers have thus dubbed this new set of vulnerabilities Dragonblood.

Kevin Robinson, vice president of marketing for the Wi-Fi Alliance, is eager for people not to panic about the vulnerability. "Not all WPA3 personal devices are affected," he says, adding, "The small number of devices that are affected with these issues can all be patched through software updates without any impact on the devices' ability to work well together."

The devices vulnerable to the attacks presented by Vanhoef and Ronen are those that allow side-channel collection of data by attacking software that has been installed on the device, and those that use specific, unsuitable cryptographic elements as part of their hashing process.

The attack comes as part of the process that allows a legacy WPA2 device to attach to a WPA3-enabled access point; the resulting "downgrade" operation opens up the process to a brute-force dictionary attack on the passwords used for authentication.

"A WPA3 network that is not in transition mode [connecting a WPA2 device to the WPA3 access point] is not susceptible to the problems that the researcher highlighted," says Robinson. So, "…the best way is to get people over to the new security protocol." He points out that, "The Wi-Fi Alliance always intended for [transition mode] to be a temporary measure that would then ultimately be disabled once the network devices have moved over to WPA3."

Mitigating the vulnerability discovered by Vanhoef and Ronen boils down to two things: transitioning to a fully WPA3 network as rapidly as possible, and installing all patches and updates to WPA3-enabled equipment already installed.

What about transparency?

But the researchers also took aim at what they see as a root cause of the vulnerability: a flawed process for developing the WPA3 standard. "…we believe that our attacks could have been avoided if the Wi-Fi Alliance created the WPA3 certification in a more open manner."

"The Wi-Fi Alliance does follow the recommended practice of using existing security standards," says Robinson in response.

Explaining that the Wi-Fi Alliance does not itself develop basic authentication protocols, he says, "The IEEE has a robust standardization process and the IEEE introduced simultaneous authentication of equals for 802.11 in 2011, allowing significant time for broad, multi-stakeholder input." As for why the Wi-Fi Alliance chose to use the protocol, Robinson says, "No other protocol with similar benefits existed within 802.11 at the time the Wi-Fi Alliance was evaluating technologies."

Now, researchers like Vanhoef and Ronen are probing the implementations of WPA3 and that, says, Robinson, is how the process should work. "[Researchers are] finding issues and industry is responding in a very rapid and proactive manner," Robinson says, adding "and this is all a healthy dynamic."

Related content:

 

 

 

 

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two cybersecurity summits at Interop 2019. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the Interop agenda here.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Russia Hacked Clinton's Computers Five Hours After Trump's Call
Robert Lemos, Technology Journalist/Data Researcher,  4/19/2019
Tips for the Aftermath of a Cyberattack
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/17/2019
Why We Need a 'Cleaner Internet'
Darren Anstee, Chief Technology Officer at Arbor Networks,  4/19/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-7303
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-23
A vulnerability in the seccomp filters of Canonical snapd before version 2.37.4 allows a strict mode snap to insert characters into a terminal on a 64-bit host. The seccomp rules were generated to match 64-bit ioctl(2) commands on a 64-bit platform; however, the Linux kernel only uses the lower 32 b...
CVE-2019-7304
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-23
Canonical snapd before version 2.37.1 incorrectly performed socket owner validation, allowing an attacker to run arbitrary commands as root. This issue affects: Canonical snapd versions prior to 2.37.1.
CVE-2019-0223
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-23
While investigating bug PROTON-2014, we discovered that under some circumstances Apache Qpid Proton versions 0.9 to 0.27.0 (C library and its language bindings) can connect to a peer anonymously using TLS *even when configured to verify the peer certificate* while used with OpenSSL versions before 1...
CVE-2017-12619
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-23
Apache Zeppelin prior to 0.7.3 was vulnerable to session fixation which allowed an attacker to hijack a valid user session. Issue was reported by "stone lone".
CVE-2018-1317
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-23
In Apache Zeppelin prior to 0.8.0 the cron scheduler was enabled by default and could allow users to run paragraphs as other users without authentication.