Millions of wireless access points are spread across the US and the world. About 70% percent of these access points are unprotected - wide open to access by anyone who happens to drive by. The other 30% are protected by WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and a small handful are protected by the new WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) standard.
Figure 1: FBI Computer Scientist James C. Smith (left) and
At a recent ISSA (Information Systems Security Association) meeting in Los Angeles, a team of FBI agents demonstrated current WEP-cracking techniques and broke a 128 bit WEP key in about three minutes. Special Agent Geoff Bickers ran the Powerpoint presentation and explained the attack, while the other agents (who did not want to be named or photographed) did the dirty work of sniffing wireless traffic and breaking the WEP keys.
This article will be a general overview of the procedures used by the FBI team. A future article will give step-by-step instructions on how to replicate the attack.