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10/23/2006
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Metasploit to Go Wireless

Wireless device-driver software set to emerge as the next big petri dish for exploits, attacks

HD Moore, Jon Ellch (a.k.a. johnny cache), and another researcher known as "skape," are collaborating on adding 802.11 wireless exploits to the Metasploit 3.0 penetration testing tool. Moore, the creator of Metasploit, has written a wrapper for the tool that lets it execute raw 802.11 packet injection.

802.11 packet injection lets an attacker go after the lowest level of the operating system, such as wireless device drivers, which Ellch says are an attacker's goldmine. "This code is full of bugs because it is not written by software companies and until recently, bugs in it were not really exploitable," Ellch says. "Now that we can send packets at such a low level, we can hit the bugs in the code."

Wireless device-driver vulnerabilities are becoming a hot topic. Ellch, in a presentation at last week's Blue Hat summit, told Microsoft it needs to work with device-driver vendors to turn off some of the unnecessary wireless card features to minimize the risk of a hack. "The basic problem is end users have two choices on the driver, 'on' or 'off.'" And there's a lot of code in this software associated with features users may not need, such as "power-save," for instance, that leaves the door open for bugs.

"The more code you have, the more bugs there are," he says.

And with Metasploit 3.0 about to include 802.11 exploits as well, Microsoft and device-driver vendors may have to take action sooner, rather than later. "A working Metasploit module is definitely motivation for wireless vendors to review their code," says Moore, who is also director of security research with BreakingPoint Systems. Moore says the new features will likely be ready to go in the next few weeks for Metasploit 3.0.

Meanwhile, Ellch says for Microsoft to better secure the 802.11 device-driver layer of the kernel, it would have to determine which features users could disable in their device drivers. "Microsoft can't fix this themselves," though. The software giant would need to work with wireless card device-driver developers, he says.

Microsoft developers didn't actually commit to following Ellch's recommendations, but they did say it would be easy to implement in Vista. The company has already been searching for device-driver bugs, he says.

"Microsoft is really interested in trying to solve this problem," Ellch says. "That's what really impressed me the most. Microsoft is actively looking for bugs in device drivers, even though they didn't write them. That takes a lot of work, because Microsoft doesn't have the source code" for that.

So why not pitch this to the device-driver vendors themselves? "You won't find one that doesn't say 'we don't have bugs,' but they all do," Ellch says. "Anyone who has not had their device driver patched yet is going to."

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
  • BreakingPoint Systems Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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