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Wi-Fi Planet Toronto: Security Taking Hold

Wi-Fi Planet Toronto: Security Taking Hold
March 24, 2004

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Wi-Fi Planet's conference in Toronto. This series of conferences is being held at a variety of locations worldwide (visit for dates and locations).

What I find most disconcerting about large conferences (those with thousands of attendees) is that focus and direction are most often lost. Yet specialization is becoming the norm in computer and network technology these days; not everyone can do everything. Luckily, this conference and its workshop sessions strictly revolve around aspects of Wi-Fi networking, with special attention given to Wi-Fi security specifically.

Being one of those security types, I made it a point to visit the Security Workshops on the first day. These sessions by Diana Kelley of Computer Associates and Lisa Phifer of Core Competence, were full of hands-on advice in setting up and configuring secure wireless networks. But it wasn't limited to laptops either.

As I peered around the room, I saw numerous PDAs clicking along with many of the scanning experiments. Attendees were exposed to some of the ways that attacks slip in and how vulnerable information is. As many in the security industry, we are exposed to the risks that wireless technologies pose on a daily basis; still many administrators are sometimes unaware of these risks.

Given the vast amount of information presented, this workshop could have easily been a two-day event in and of itself. The workshop began with an understanding of 802.11 and general security concerns. These security concerns dealt with eavesdropping, MITM (Man in the Middle) attacks, rogue connections, spoofing, unauthorized access, DoS attacks, disconnection attacks, jamming and many others.

Methods of mitigating or preventing these issues were also highlighted along with methods of determining existing risks to Wi-Fi networks through the use of test tools like AirMagnet, AirSnort, NMap, and others. Network discovery tools that attackers might use (and that administrators could use to see what attackers see) included Aerosol, Kismet and Netstumbler; tools that are definitely in use by attackers as war driving aids.

Also highlighted was traffic analysis. Sometimes done as intrusion detection, traffic analysis can give you insights into performance issues as well as expose potential "no-no" activities.

Common open source tools like AirTraf and Ethereal were mentioned as well as tools like AirScanner Mobile Sniffer, Network Chemistry Packeteyzer and WildPackets' AiroPeek. These sniffers can help pick up attackers using MITM techniques, associating and disassociating with APs and other activities. The workshop also delved into how to detect foot-printing techniques.

This, of course, leads to the concept of wireless IDS. I actually wasn't aware that there were specifically made WIDS available. Given the lack of attention often given to wireless security, I had always figured that it was coming but wasn't quite here yet.

Although not here in overwhelming numbers yet, there are certainly some options out there. AirMagnet has crafted its own product along with AirDefense, Computer Associates, WildPackets and Newbury. One open source project, perhaps the first open source WIDS out there, is WIDZ. The website's name alone is worth the visit.

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