WEP Wireless

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is a weak security algorithm for IEEE 802.11 wireless networks. Introduced as part of the original 802.11 standard ratified in September 1999, its intention was to provide data confidentiality comparable to that of a traditional wired network.[1] WEP, recognizable by the key of 10 or 26 hexadecimal digits, is widely in use and is often the first security choice presented to users by router configuration tools.[2][3]

Although its name implies that it is as secure as a wired connection, WEP has been demonstrated to have numerous flaws and has been deprecated in favor of newer standards such as WPA2. In 2003 the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that WEP had been superseded by Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). In 2004, with the ratification of the full 802.11i standard (i.e. WPA2), the IEEE declared that both WEP-40 and WEP-104 “have been deprecated as they fail to meet their security goals”.

WEP was included as the privacy component of the original IEEE 802.11 standard ratified in September 1999.[5] WEP uses the stream cipher RC4 for confidentiality,[6] and the CRC-32 checksum for integrity.[7] It was deprecated in 2004 and is documented in the current standard.[8]

Basic WEP encryption: RC4 keystream XORed with plaintext

Standard 64-bit WEP uses a 40 bit key (also known as WEP-40), which is concatenated with a 24-bit initialization vector (IV) to form the RC4 key. At the time that the original WEP standard was drafted, the U.S. Government’s export restrictions on cryptographic technology limited the key size. Once the restrictions were lifted, manufacturers of access points implemented an extended 128-bit WEP protocol using a 104-bit key size (WEP-104).

A 64-bit WEP key is usually entered as a string of 10 hexadecimal (base 16) characters (0-9 and A-F). Each character represents four bits, 10 digits of four bits each gives 40 bits; adding the 24-bit IV produces the complete 64-bit WEP key. Most devices also allow the user to enter the key as five ASCII characters, each of which is turned into eight bits using the character’s byte value in ASCII; however, this restricts each byte to be a printable ASCII character, which is only a small fraction of possible byte values, greatly reducing the space of possible keys.

A 128-bit WEP key is usually entered as a string of 26 hexadecimal characters. 26 digits of four bits each gives 104 bits; adding the 24-bit IV produces the complete 128-bit WEP key. Most devices also allow the user to enter it as 13 ASCII characters.

A 256-bit WEP system is available from some vendors. As with the other WEP-variants 24 bits of that is for the IV, leaving 232 bits for actual protection. These 232 bits are typically entered as 58 hexadecimal characters. ((58 × 4 bits =) 232 bits) + 24 IV bits = 256-bit WEP key.

Key size is one of the security limitations in WEP.[9] Cracking a longer key requires interception of more packets, but there are active attacks that stimulate the necessary traffic. There are other weaknesses in WEP, including the possibility of IV collisions and altered packets,[6] that are not helped by using a longer key.

Authentication

Two methods of authentication can be used with WEP: Open System authentication and Shared Key authentication.

For the sake of clarity, we discuss WEP authentication in the Infrastructure mode (that is, between a WLAN client and an Access Point). The discussion applies to the ad-Hoc mode as well.

In Open System authentication, the WLAN client need not provide its credentials to the Access Point during authentication. Any client can authenticate with the Access Point and then attempt to associate. In effect, no authentication occurs. Subsequently WEP keys can be used for encrypting data frames. At this point, the client must have the correct keys.

In Shared Key authentication, the WEP key is used for authentication in a four step challenge-response handshake:

  1. The client sends an authentication request to the Access Point.
  2. The Access Point replies with a clear-text challenge.
  3. The client encrypts the challenge-text using the configured WEP key, and sends it back in another authentication request.
  4. The Access Point decrypts the response. If this matches the challenge-text the Access Point sends back a positive reply.

After the authentication and association, the pre-shared WEP key is also used for encrypting the data frames using RC4.

At first glance, it might seem as though Shared Key authentication is more secure than Open System authentication, since the latter offers no real authentication. However, it is quite the reverse. It is possible to derive the keystream used for the handshake by capturing the challenge frames in Shared Key authentication.[10] Hence, it is advisable to use Open System authentication for WEP authentication, rather than Shared Key authentication. (Note that both authentication mechanisms are weak.)

Source: Wikipedia.org

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