Researcher cracks WPA Wi-Fi encryption in 15 minutes


— 4:24 PM on November 6, 2008

Folks breaking into WEP-encrypted Wi-Fi networks has become a fact of life. That's why most knowledgeable users rely on WPA or WPA2 encryption systems instead. Bad news, though: PC World reports that a pair of security researchers have found a way to break into WPA networks in a frighteningly short amount of time.

According to PC World, Erik Tews and Martin Beck can break WPA Temporal Key Integrity Protocol keys by first getting the router to send them "large amounts of data." Then, the researchers rely on a "mathematical breakthrough" that lets them find a crack in only 12-15 minutes. On the upside, the researchers reportedly haven't found a way to crack keys that secure data going from other systems to the router.

Other WPA cracking techniques already exist, of course, but they're much slower—PC World points out that they hinge on brute-force dictionary cracking, which takes a significant amount of processing power and time as the cracker's system iterates through all possible keys.

Tews and Beck plan to reveal more about their new cracking technique at the PacSec conference in Tokyo next week. PacSec organizer Dragos Ruiu told PC World that Beck has already added "some of the code used in the attack" to the popular Aircrack-ng Wi-Fi cracking tool. (Thanks to TR reader Chris for the heads-up.)

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