By now you may have heard about a newly found vulnerability in Wi-Fi security called KRACK and may be wondering what it means to you. Without going too far down the technical rabbit hole, I’ll try to explain the risk.
KRACK is the industry short name for Key Reinstallation Attacks. A discovery was made back in July by researchers in a White Hat (the good guys) hacking lab that showed how the encryption of network traffic using WPA2 security could be negated. They passed their findings on to the appropriate government agencies and manufacturers who then took action to correct the problem with firmware/product updates. This past Monday they made the public aware of the problem with the encryption protocol.
What did not happen was some explanation of what it means to the general public. Since it is only applicable to Wi-Fi networks, the first thing to know is that anyone who wants to break the encryption must be in range of the Wi-Fi signal. If they can’t see the Wi-Fi then they can’t exploit the problem. The second thing is that the Wi-Fi password is required to begin the KRACK attack. If the hacker does not have the password then they cannot kick off the hack. Because of those 2 things, the risk to most folks is minimal.
There are a few things that can be done to protect yourself from KRACK. First, install the updates when you are notified of them. This is very important as the problem affects ALL devices. Every PC, Mac, smart phone, thermostat, washer & dryer, etc. with Wi-Fi capabilities has the problem. FYI companies like Microsoft released a patch for the Windows operating system on Tuesday with their monthly updates. Others will follow suit shortly. Again, install the updates.
Second, when logging into a website be sure that you are doing so with HTTPS, not HTTP. HTTPS encrypts the data between your device and the server that you are communicating. You will see this in the address bar of the browser. The address of the website should begin with HTTPS://. With this you will also see a little lock symbol adjacent to the address. These mean that your data is encrypted and not sent in readable text.
My take on KRACK. Since the hacker must be on the Wi-Fi network, the exposure is reduced for most people. Businesses with multiple Wi-Fi networks as part of their total IT systems are more exposed than consumers because of that configuration/environment. Essentially, if you update your devices you will be protected. This problem has been around since the WPA2 encryption language was written many years ago. It only took so long to discover it because the encryption protocol has been doing its job keeping things encrypted and secure. That will not change.
My biggest concern is what will happen to your components when the Internet service providers push out updates to their equipment. As was mentioned earlier, ALL equipment has this problem. Every router from Comcast, Cox Communications and Verizon has this issue. If the carriers push out updates in the middle of the night, things that were working the day prior may have problems the next morning. Let’s hope all goes smoothly on their end with these updates.