WPA3: Enhancing Wi-Fi Security with Dragonfly Handshake


Wi-Fi security is often overlooked, as many people connect to public networks without taking proper precautions. We trust that a password alone is enough to keep us safe. However, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) has inherent flaws that need addressing, even as we transition to the third generation of Wi-Fi security, WPA3. This article delves into the key vulnerabilities of WPA3 and highlights the importance of staying vigilant in protecting our wireless networks.

Slaying dragons

WPA2’s reliance on pre-shared keys and weak encryption gave rise to the need for WPA3’s improved security measures. With 128-bit encryption and the implementation of the Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) protocol, commonly known as Dragonfly handshake, WPA3 aims to prevent dictionary attacks by forcing network interaction during logins. However, even though WPA3 brings advancements, it still fails to address the fundamental flaws in Wi-Fi security that have persisted since the inception of WPA.

You look so alike…

The long-standing issue of evil twin attacks remains one of the biggest vulnerabilities in Wi-Fi. Just by using their cellphones, even non-technical individuals can launch an evil twin attack. For instance, if someone changes their phone’s name to match a WPA3-protected Wi-Fi network’s name and turns on their hotspot, they create an indistinguishable evil twin network. Connecting to such a network not only exposes users’ information but also downgrades their security, even if their devices support WPA3. This downgrade occurs due to WPA3’s Transition Mode, which allows the operation of WPA2 and WPA3 simultaneously with the same password, making everyone susceptible to attacks.

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Exploiting Transition Mode

Transition Mode is not the only weak point for potential downgrade attacks in WPA3. Dragonblood also reveals a security group downgrade attack, wherein an evil twin network can decline initial WPA3 security requests from victim devices. The victim’s device then retries the connection with a different security group, allowing the fake network to accept it and significantly weaken the victim’s wireless protections.

The human vulnerability

WPA3’s limitations in protecting against evil twin attacks stem from users’ inability to differentiate between legitimate and fake networks. This issue is not inherently a flaw in the technology itself, but rather a human vulnerability. Wi-Fi menus on devices lack indicators that distinguish safe networks from phony ones.

The cost of a breach

Cracking eight-character, lower-case passwords can cost as little as $125 on platforms like Amazon AWS, making it an attractive investment for hackers seeking to steal sensitive information. By luring victims to evil twin networks through splash pages, attackers can exploit unsuspecting users and compromise their security.

Stay safe by being safe

To enhance Wi-Fi security, a new wireless standard that includes a visual indicator, indicating safe networks, is necessary. This change would require the coordination of IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance to implement and roll out the update to manufacturers and software providers. While waiting for such a standard, users can take steps to protect themselves. Updating devices and patching vulnerabilities, especially with WPA3 security features, is crucial. Additionally, running the latest firmware on WPA3 devices and utilizing a virtual private network (VPN) for public Wi-Fi networks can add an extra layer of encryption and security. At home, setting a strong, unique password for your Wi-Fi network and changing it periodically can prevent attacks.

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For more information on Wi-Fi security, visit OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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