The proliferation of new wireless communication technologies within consumer electronics and smart devices is overtaking the skills harboured within the information security industry. That’s the considered opinion of Larry Pesce, a leading expert in the field and a SANS Institute instructor.
“There’s a great deal of disparity between the security of the different wireless standards, and particularly so when you compare the 802 family that were predominately built for business use and emerging technologies that came from the consumer landscape such as Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-Wave,” explained Pesce, who co-authored the books entitled ‘Linksys WRT54G Ultimate Hacking’ and ‘Using Wireshark and Ethereal’.
“For example, Bluetooth has some solid maths around encryption, but many of the security decisions are left in the hands of the users which means things can go horribly wrong. Zigbee has a poor design for how it handles passphrase and replay packets which are highly vulnerable, while security in some of the proprietary formats like Z-Wave offers almost non-existent security.”
Pesce, who also develops real-world challenges for the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defence Challenge, is complementary about newer wireless protocols such as 802.15.4 and Zigbee which uses baseline profiles to help deliver enhanced security, but comments: “The technology is probably ahead of the skill sets out in the field. The problem is also somewhat underestimated.”
Pesce also highlights the privacy issues that wireless-enabled devices are starting to hit against. “If we look forward, a large number of devices in the workplace and the home will be wirelessly enabled and communicating autonomously between each other and back to manufacturers. Unless more consideration is given towards securing both the devices and the communication links, there are likely to be breaches that will burrow into this Internet of Things infrastructure and start to gather private information or act as a staging post for more damaging attacks.”
Pesce will be teaching the SANS course SEC617: Wireless Ethical Hacking, Penetration Testing and Defences at SANS London in July. The hands-on course takes an in-depth look at the security challenges of many different wireless technologies, exposing students to wireless security threats through the eyes of an attacker.
Using readily available and custom-developed tools, students navigate through the techniques attackers use to exploit Wi-Fi networks, including attacks against WEP, WPA/WPA2, PEAP, TTLS and other systems.
The course also examines the commonly overlooked threats associated with Bluetooth, ZigBee, DECT and proprietary wireless systems.
“We’re at a crossroads from a standards perspective,” concluded Pesce. “The vendors are still mostly obsessed with ‘bigger and faster’, but there’s also increased pressure from a privacy perspective and many are having a hard time figuring it out. For information security professionals, the skills needed to secure these new types of wireless connections are in high demand.”
*More information on SANS London Summer 2016 is available at: http://www.sans.org/london-in-the-summer-2016