Encryption systems used by wireless routers have had a long history of security problems. The Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) system was cracked and rendered effectively pointless within a few years of its introduction in 1997. Now, it looks like its WPA successor may soon suffer the same fate, with a pair of Japanese researchers developing a way to break it in just one minute.
The attack builds on the so-called "Becks-Tews method" unveiled last year by researchers Martin Beck and Erik Tews. However, that method worked on a smaller range of WPA devices and took between 12 and 15 minutes to carry out. Both attacks work on WPA systems that use the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) algorithm. They aren't key-recovery attacks -- but give hackers a way to read encrypted traffic sent between computers and certain types of routers that use the outdated encryption system.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has required since 2006 that Wi-Fi-certified products support WPA 2, a much more powerful encryption system that is not vulnerable to these attacks, but users have been slow to upgrade.
The two researchers, Toshihiro Ohigashi of Hiroshima University and Masakatu Morii of Kobe University, are to discuss their findings at a conference in Hiroshima this September 25 but you can read some details now in their paper, "A Practical Message Falsification Attack on WPA" (PDF).