Nowadays, Wi-Fi networks are among the most commonly used networks, making them a go-to target for cyber attacks. An attacker with basic tools and knowledge can crack 70% of Wi-Fi networks.
Subsequently, the attacker can obtain the hash and crack the password to obtain the plaintext password. However, even if the Wi-Fi network may consider an attack vector, applying good security measures while configuring the network can significantly mitigate the success of an adversary (attacker). In this blog, we elaborate on the importance of security in Wi-Fi wireless networks, how to apply security measures as a user and as a Wi-Fi network administrator, and how attackers can exploit the network and client device information. Let’s look at the details of how these scenarios can occur.
This internet network allows you to go online with your devices around your residence building, where your router is set up without using a cable (Ethernet). Many packets are roaming in the air from your Wi-Fi router to your connected device. Therefore, an attacker can use this activity by sending malicious packets to your Wi-Fi name (technically called SSID), trying to manipulate the connection, and obtaining information about your network configuration. He can use the found data for future purposes, such as modifying his computer settings to match yours (very frequent when it comes to session hijacking). Based on this fact, the importance of security in Wi-Fi networks comes into play.
Why is it important to secure our Wi-Fi network?
First and foremost, the concept of “security” can be viewed from different aspects. For ordinary people (who are not in the cybersecurity field), secure Wi-Fi, secure mobile, secure laptops, files, and folders usually means little more than setting a password on those devices and/or documents. They are not wrong, but the term “security” truly encompasses more than that. Securing something is to put that thing at a level that a small number of people–or nobody at all–can break.This usually implies using robust encryption techniques, hashing functions, Salt, certificates, overwrite, hiding, etc., which highly mitigate the risk of being hacked or exploited.
For example, A Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) key used in wireless networks can be cracked (broken) more easily than the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2).
What can attackers do to users using an open Wi-Fi network?
The most prominent hacking attack on Wi-Fi networks today is the Man-In-The-Middle attack. With this attack, a malicious person sets himself (his device) between the switch, router, and the victim’s machine. Attackers intercept the connection between the client’s device and the router to capture data packets. Since the communication is unencrypted, the attacker can read the user’s messages, and screenshots using eavesdropping techniques; they can distribute malware, etc. This is already enough to step away from open Wi-Fi networks. Attackers can also access data on your machine.
Secondly, the attacker may create a Fake Access Point (Wi-Fi network connection). We call it fake, not because the Wi-Fi network will not work, but because an attacker administers it. The same context is also related to Rogue Access Point.
The third option for hackers is using a sidejacking technique, which relies on gaining data from a station through packet sniffing.
Using the Shoulder-Surfing strategy. It works in the same way as how you pay attention while extracting money from an ATM. In that case, you will usually check to see if someone is around you who can look at your keystrokes. Hackers use this method to ensure someone is not hovering around when typing their Wi-Fi credentials.
How to apply security measures as a user using a Wi-fi network, or as a Wi-Fi network administrator?
A) As a user:
One of the best and most straightforward ways to secure yourself as a client (user) is to always ignore open networks (which don’t ask for a password or any kind of authentication). Do not connect to them, unless you are presented with no other option to access the internet. Alternatively, you can use a VPN before connecting or create a personal hotspot from your mobile phone.
Read carefully before entering your credentials in a Wi-Fi name (technical name is SSID, which stands for Service Set Identifier). Check if any Twin Wi-Fi name (i.e, with the same name as the one you know) is listed on your network area before using the one that you think is legitimate. If any do exist, pay close attention.
If you share computers with your colleagues, family, or friends, and you have been given access to a Wi-Fi network by its administrator, and that you do not wish others to see his credentials, then erase the Wi-Fi password after using the computer. This can be done as follows if you are on a Windows PC using command prompt (cmd):
Press your Windows key, and type in the search bar “cmd” without quotes.
Then copy this command below:
“netsh wlan delete profile the_wifi_name_you_want_to_remove” and paste it there. Then, press enter.
For Linux-based (tested on Ubuntu and Kali):
“sudo cat /etc/NetworkManager/systemconnections/<target_Wi-Fi>.nmconnection”. The content behind the pre-shared key (PSK=) is the password.
For Mac OS: “security find-generic-password -ga target_Wi-Fi | grep “password:” “. (Without the outside quotes)
B) As an administrator:
Our first recommendation is to use WPA2-Enterprise along with a maximum of security layers. We suggest that because many devices today still do not support WPA3. Our next recommendation is to use “WPA2-Personal”, respecting the password policy.
Test your router credentials and check to see to which kind of attack it may be most vulnerable. A clever attacker will not struggle to capture a handshake anymore if he can take control over your router gateway IP address, mostly like 192.168.1.1.