Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

11/21/2016
03:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

WindTalker Attack Finds New Vulnerabilities in Wi-Fi Networks

White hat researchers show how hackers read keystrokes to potentially compromise cellphone and tablet users on public Wi-Fi and home networks.

A group of seven computer scientists have discovered WindTalker, a vulnerability in Wi-Fi networks that lets hackers potentially read keystrokes based on the finger position of a cellphone or tablet user.

The vulnerability was found by five researchers based at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China, while the other two are affiliated with the University of Massachusetts at Boston and University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla.

Xiaohui Liang, the researcher based at UMass Boston, says by exploiting this vulnerability hackers can know when the user inputs PIN numbers. The researchers recently presented their findings in a paper to the ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security in Vienna, Austria.

Paul Ducklin, a senior technologist at Sophos who wrote a blog about WindTalker, says the research is important in that it points at a previously undiscovered vulnerability.

“This research just underscores that security is a journey,” Ducklin says. “While this couldn’t have been possible five years ago, with the processing power now available, it is today. And while manufacturers don’t have to run out quickly to correct WindTalker, it does put them on notice that it could be a problem in the years to come.”

In his blog, Ducklin explains that the researchers used specially modified firmware downloaded into a single Wi-Fi network card to create an access point that could keep track of minute variations in the underlying communication signal, and correlate those changes with the cell phone user’s typing.

Ducklin says once the researchers detected the Wi-Fi flaw, they also realized that hackers can set up rogue networks in situations where users sign on automatically. This can be on a public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop or airport, or even a home network where users generally sign on without looking at the network’s name.

“The criminals can clone the network’s name and the user would have no idea if it was the legitimate network,” Ducklin says.

Ducklin praised the researchers for discovering this new flaw, saying that users may now realize that they have to take added precautions. He recommends that users consider installing a VPN client on their devices, as well as using two-factor authentication.

“The two-factor authentication can’t prevent a hack, but it can mitigate the damage,” he explains. “While a hacker may get through once, with two-factor authentication, the password that the criminals used today won’t be any good tomorrow.”

Related Content:

 

Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience and has covered networking, security, and IT as a writer and editor since 1992. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
Inside the Ransomware Campaigns Targeting Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/2/2021
Commentary
Beyond MITRE ATT&CK: The Case for a New Cyber Kill Chain
Rik Turner, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions, Omdia,  3/30/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-28797
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
A stack-based buffer overflow vulnerability has been reported to affect QNAP NAS devices running Surveillance Station. If exploited, this vulnerability allows attackers to execute arbitrary code. QNAP have already fixed this vulnerability in the following versions: Surveillance Station 5.1.5.4.3 (an...
CVE-2020-36323
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
In the standard library in Rust before 1.50.3, there is an optimization for joining strings that can cause uninitialized bytes to be exposed (or the program to crash) if the borrowed string changes after its length is checked.
CVE-2021-31162
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
In the standard library in Rust before 1.53.0, a double free can occur in the Vec::from_iter function if freeing the element panics.
CVE-2017-20004
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
In the standard library in Rust before 1.19.0, there is a synchronization problem in the MutexGuard object. MutexGuards can be used across threads with any types, allowing for memory safety issues through race conditions.
CVE-2018-25008
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
In the standard library in Rust before 1.29.0, there is weak synchronization in the Arc::get_mut method. This synchronization issue can be lead to memory safety issues through race conditions.