WEP Hacking Risks
July 2, 2005 9:32 PM   Subscribe

For an 802.11G network, is 128 bit WEP encryption secure ENOUGH?

I have a Linksys Game Adapter (the access point you would use for an XBOX, PS2, or in my case, a new Slingbox), and 128 bit WEP is the best encryption available. My friend swears anything less than WPA is unsafe on an unwired network. Any IT/network people care to weigh in with opinions/suggestions?
posted by jonson to Technology (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It depends. Is your key random? If it's easy to remember/guess, it isn't.

If you keep private stuff on open shares, on your network, it isn't... nothing is.

A friend and I, when we were working as network admins, required a full week of constant traffic on a high-bandwidth, high-traffic wireless network to collect enough packets to crack the network key. We left a laptop sitting next to the port with a cracker running, and eventually got in. The network admin instituted the practice of changing the key on every payday, which was annoying for some users but kept disgruntled former employees from accessing the network as well.

I know that there's some newer software out there that can pull a key faster than the stuff we were using a couple of years ago when 802.11g first became widespread, but I haven't seen it in practice.

Really, there's not much you can do to keep any network secure if someone can get physical access to it. Shared-key wireless encryption of all types can eventually be hacked or picked... same with the locks on your front door. The keys and locks just serve to keep honest people honest.

If you wanted to keep people from accessing your computers that are on the network, segment the network and only allow your wireless network access to the outgoing internet connection... that way, only wireless devices can be hacked via the wireless and only bandwidth can be stolen. Otherwise, if it keeps you up at night, unplug the access point when you're not using it. ;)
posted by SpecialK at 10:03 PM on July 2, 2005

Even WPA is absurdly insecure. Think of current wireless encryption methods as a small deterrent, and not as actual security.
posted by cmonkey at 10:10 PM on July 2, 2005

Response by poster: Hmm. This is on a home network, and the only truly private info that I'd want to protect is my online banking passwords, as nothing else I do is tremendously secret. I'm not sure I can limit traffic to upstream only on the Game Adapter, as bi-directional information flow is part of the process...
posted by jonson at 10:47 PM on July 2, 2005

WEP is horrendously insecure. This means that (once someone puts their mind to cracking it, which can be done with off the shelf tools):

a) they could steal your bandwidth
b) they could sniff your packets, seeing everything transmitted in the clear -- what websites you're surfing, your email, etc.

However, your bank passwords are almost certainly transmitted securely via an https connection -- this means that reading them does the packet sniffer no good -- they're encrypted. So if they're the only thing you're worried about, don't worry.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:31 PM on July 2, 2005

Yeah, jonson, I wouldn't worry.. unless you do things unencrypted that should be. If I was you, and I was still nervous, I'd either unplug the wireless when I wasn't using it, or if I had the skills (I do, not many are willing to do the work for a home network) I'd segment the network into different LANs and keep traffic that I wanted to be secure from being transmitted over the wireless at all.
posted by SpecialK at 11:35 PM on July 2, 2005

Uh, yeah, about the banks, note the number of them that pass you the login form over HTTP.

No, you're not allowed to do that.
posted by effugas at 11:51 PM on July 2, 2005

My preferred solution to this is to just admit that my wireless will always be insecure, and keep it segmented off the rest of my network. I reach my internal network via VPN, the same as I would if I were using my laptop from a hotel.

As far as bank websites and what not, if they're not using https you shouldn't be using them from anywhere at all.
posted by mosch at 12:21 AM on July 3, 2005

How much, if at all, does locking the wireless to a particular MAC help?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:22 AM on July 3, 2005

Here's a rather illuminating screencast showing how to crack 64-bit WEP in 10 minutes.

I think mosch is on the right track here.
posted by kaefer at 12:47 AM on July 3, 2005

I have the same question as ROU_Xenophobe. I use 128bit WEP, and MAC filtering, and hope its enough.

I could switch to WPA, but that would leave out some of the older equipment that doesnt support it.
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 1:51 AM on July 3, 2005

Personally, I do everything off the wireless in the clear, and check the router for flashing lights that shouldn't be flashing from time to time. I'm pretty sure my 5 or so neighbours aren't the leeching type as well, and the house is hardly covenient for wardrivers ...
posted by singingfish at 3:18 AM on July 3, 2005

I teach courses to the government on computer security, and here are some helpful and 100% factual answers for everyone:

WEP is near-trivial to defeat. MAC-filtering is near-trivial to defeat. When using a wireless connection, you should assume that everything you're doing is not only being eavesdropped upon, but that it is possible for an attacker to change the data sent to you before it reaches your laptop.

Just assume that everything you do is being read and changed in-transit, and you'll be fine. :)
posted by Jairus at 4:15 AM on July 3, 2005

share and enjoy.

as stated by others, do everything over ssh and/or ssl and your actual transactions will be safe. mostly. just don't expect your network itself to stay private...

a better way to keep others from using your connection may be a captive portal like nocat auth.
posted by dorian at 4:41 AM on July 3, 2005

(i am not a 1337)

You're running a tiny home network, unless you've got a damn stupid hacker as a neighbour you've no problems. No one drives by individuals' houses waiting to get secure info, not because they like the little guy but because it's so infrequent: go to the collections not the sources. If your neighbour steals sensitive traffic and uses it, it will be so easy to connect dots that he might as well wait outside the building for the blue lights.

Run on WEP, secure the MACs you use and that's about all you can reasonably do. Any more is overkill because you've already scared off the idiots.
This isn't even close to best practise, but it's practical - don't take your bad habits with you when you go and work for a multinational. Or tell us when you do.
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:17 AM on July 3, 2005

It's the old saw: Locks only keep honest people out.

I tend to assume that there might be people with slightly greater than my level of hacker skills and access to consumer-grade hardware living right next door to me. For them, I put up the 128-bit WEP and the MAC filter; if they're able to defeat this, I don't care if they find out that I prefer brunettes to blondes (which they probably will in short order.)

I also assume that there are people out there who do this for a living, be they government or organized criminals, with perfect understand of the protocols at the RF and hardware level. Nothing that I wouldn't want government or organized crime to see gets done on my computer.

The panopticon is opening new eyes daily; mind you don't show them your uncovered ass.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:22 AM on July 3, 2005

MAC locking are useless against an interested intruder. MAC snooping and spoofing are trivial.

The good news is that it's really, really unlikely that anybody cares.
posted by mosch at 12:57 AM on July 4, 2005

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