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How does the KRACK vulnerability use encryption keys?

The KRACK vulnerability was found in the WPA2 protocol for wireless networks and it enables attackers to crack encrypted connections. Learn how it works from Nick Lewis.

How serious is the KRACK vulnerability on WPA2? How difficult is the vulnerability to exploit and use in an at...


The more widely deployed the software or system, the more difficult it is to update all its vulnerable assets, and the larger the potential value is to an attacker. When the vulnerability is in wireless networks, the risk is even higher, as an attacker doesn't need to be physically present for an attack.

Wireless networks using 802.11 standards have a long history of security vulnerabilities, and a new vulnerability -- named KRACK -- was recently identified with a branded logo.

The KRACK vulnerability is present in the wireless standard when the encryption key used to set up an encrypted connection can be reused -- this enables an attacker to decrypt the encrypted connection.

The KRACK vulnerability is present in the wireless standard when the encryption key used to set up an encrypted connection can be reused.

During the initial connection to the wireless network, the network sends multiple copies of the encryption key to the endpoint to ensure that it can connect to the wireless network. When the device connects to the wireless network, the attacker captures the encryption key, and then resends the captured packet back to the vulnerable endpoint at a later date so that it can reset the encryption key in use.

The KRACK vulnerability is a serious flaw in the wireless standard and its implementation, but because so many services are switching over to the use of encryption at the application layer via SSL/TLS, the impact may not be dramatic. However, attacks such as Firesheep and other monkey-in-the-middle attacks could help attackers use this vulnerability.

To fully patch this vulnerability, all endpoints and wireless access points need to be updated; however, a simple endpoint patch should be sufficient to protect vulnerable Android and Linux systems.

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This was last published in May 2018

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