Some of you may have heard already about the vulnerability discovered in the security protocol of WiFi networks called KRACK ATTACK. This protocol, WPA2, is used to encrypt transmission over a WiFi network. This vulnerability can allow someone to eavesdrop on the transmission on a wireless network as if the wireless network was unsecured, i.e., no encryption. This affects every wireless network using the WPA2 protocol, which is most at this point.
This is not a reason to panic, but for concern and more diligence in using a WIFI network when abroad. Here are a few facts relating to this.
- This does not make a wireless network vulnerable to anyone on the internet. It requires proximity to be exploited, that is, someone has to be close to the wireless network to tap into it
- Visiting encrypted websites is still safe as those use a separate layer of security
- There isn’t much we can do about this except be diligent using wireless networks abroad and ensure that your computers, smartphones, tablets, etc. have the most up-to-date patches.
- The data on your devices are not at risk. The vulnerability is only during the transmission of data.
- This is not a device or vendor specific vulnerability. It affects any device using WIFI and the WPA2 protocol.
- Researches who discovered this vulnerability stated that Android devices seemed to be more at risk, especially the newer Android phones (Android 6.0 or later).
- Computers connected to a network via a network cable (wired) are not affected by this vulnerability
- The bigger companies are already rolling out fixes for this vulnerability. Microsoft has already rolled out patches for this for Windows 10 machines Ubiquiti (the maker of WIFI equipment) has already rolled out firmware updates to fix this issue. Apple is working on a fix, which is in beta at the time of this writing.
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Use a wired network when possible
- Ensure your devices have up-to-date security patches applied
- Use the cellular connection (e.g., 4G) instead of WIFI (turn WIFI OFF when not needed)
- Try to stick to encrypted sites if you have to use WIFI abroad. The URL of an encrypted site will begin with https://
- Use VPN when available to hide all network traffic. There are several companies that offer VPN services.
- At home, check that your wireless router has any available patches and apply them.
Though this vulnerability is serious, there isn’t any indication that it is being exploited at this moment. It is unlikely that someone will sit outside of your house and eavesdrop on your wireless transmissions.
Realize that this is a serious situation regarding wireless networks. However, there is no need to panic at the moment or fall for any scare tactics. Be diligent when transmitting sensitive information over a wireless network.