Most people these days seem to be making the jump to WiFi, and it’s not terribly difficult to see why. Mobile hardware has never been so popular as it is now, and the choice between a confusing jumble of wires as opposed to a wireless alternative seems obvious.
The problem is that WiFi suffers from one glaring weakness not necessarily shared by its non-broadcasting brethren: uninvited guests can connect to the network. Quite easily, if you’re using a WEP password.
This could cause a lot more damage than simply allowing a few layabouts to waste your bandwidth. In the worst case scenario you might even find the systems on your network being compromised or wind up with someone sniffing your network traffic for personal information. There’s a reason people are discouraged from connecting to unsecured networks.
Okay, so what’s the big deal?
WEP is an outdated protocol. Everybody with even a smattering of knowledge about wireless networks opts for WPA or WPA2 encryption on their networks. They’re better modes of encryption, and they’re far more secure than their predecessor.
That doesn’t mean WPA encryption is bulletproof. Far from it, in fact.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Reaver. It’s a tool specifically designed to crack through wireless encryption to obtain WPA/WPA2 passwords. Worse, it’s both free and open-source. With even a minimal degree of understanding, all a hacker needs to do is install the tool, set its sights on a wireless network, and wait. The tool does all the heavy lifting.
“Reaver has been designed to be a robust and practical attack against Wifi Protected Setup, and has been tested against a wide variety of access points and WPS implementations,” reads the project description. “On average Reaver will recover the target access point’s plain text WPA/WPA2 passphrase in 4-10 hours, depending on the access point. In practice, it will generally take half this time to guess the correct WPS pin and recover the passphrase.”
It does this using a brute force method which is simple but distressingly effective, and turning off Wifi Protected Setup isn’t enough to stop it.
We’re not bringing this to your attention in order to enable you to do anything shady. We’re doing it so that you can do something to protect yourself against it.
But, how does one even begin to protect their network against this utility?
If you’re using a wireless router which doesn’t allow for WiFi protected setup you’re probably in the clear, since Reaver works by exploiting a vulnerability in the process. The better news is that it’s also not compatible with every router that does include the feature. Reddit user Jagermo has posted a handy dandy spreadsheet which features a list of vulnerable devices. Before you start fretting about how to fend off a Reaver attack, you’d best check it out to see if your device is even hack-able.
If your device is flagged as vulnerable, protecting it is as simple as installing a piece of custom firmware. Specifically, I’m talking about a tool known as DD-WRT. It’s open-source, Linux-based firmware. DD-WRT doesn’t support WPS, so there’s no vulnerabilities present for Reaver to exploit. In other words, your network should be (more or less) secure.
Security isn’t the only reason to install DD-WRT, either. Using it will allow you to boost your wireless network’s strength, monitor your network usage, set up a network hard drive, install an ad-blocker which functions for all connected users, and transform even the most basic router into a powerful, full-featured access point. Essentially, it transforms you into a power user where your network’s concerned.
The bad news is that since the installation involves cracking your router’s firmware, it tends to vary by device. That also means that not every device is compatible with DD-WRT. Check the list of supported devices before you try downloading and installing.
Do note that I don’t mean to spread fear or paranoia here. The chances of any of us getting hit with an attack from Reaver are fairly slim, particularly given that one needs to be in range of a network in order to crack it. Still, it couldn’t hurt to install DD-WRT, particularly with all the awesome features you’ll be given access to in return. Seems like a fair trade for better security, no?