May 24, 2024
By Cybervergent Team

Beware of Tricks: Exposing the Wi-Fi Standard's SSID Confusion Attack Flaw

We frequently come across Wi-Fi hotspots in busy cafes, airports, or even in our friendly neighbor's home (with their kind permission, of course!). But a recently discovered flaw in the Wi-Fi standard has raised concerns about the security of wireless networks. Researchers have identified a fundamental design flaw in the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standard that can enable SSID confusion attacks. This flaw allows attackers to trick victims into connecting to a less secure wireless network than the one they intended to connect to, putting them at risk of traffic interception and manipulation.

The Vulnerability:

The flaw, known as CVE-2023-52424, affects all Wi-Fi clients across various operating systems and networks, including those usingWPA3, WEP, and 802.11X/EAP protocols. The root cause of this vulnerability lies in the fact that the Wi-Fi standard does not always require authentication ofthe network's Service Set Identifier (SSID) during the connection process. The SSID is the unique identifier that distinguishes wireless access points andnetworks from others in the vicinity.

Exploitation and Downgrade Attacks:

Attackers can exploit this flaw by setting up a rogue access point with the same SSID as a trusted network, tricking the victim'sdevice into connecting to the rogue network instead. This downgrade attack can expose victims to known vulnerabilities like Krack and other threats,potentially compromising their data and privacy. Additionally, this attack can even neutralize the protection provided by VPNs that automatically disable whenconnected to trusted Wi-Fi network.

Conditions for Exploitation:

For this attack to be successful, certain conditions need to be met. It typically occurs in situations where an organization has twoWi-Fi networks with shared credentials, such as a 2.4 GHz network and a separate 5 GHz band with different SSIDs but the same authenticationcredentials. The attacker, in close proximity to the target network, can use a rogue access point to intercept and redirect the victim's connection to theless secure network.

Mitigation Measures:

To mitigate the risk of SSID confusion attacks, researchers have proposed several measures. These include updating the IEEE802.11 standard to make SSID authentication mandatory during the connection process. Enhancing beacon protection, which verifies the authenticity of theSSID transmitted by access points, can also help detect any changes in the SSID. Additionally, avoiding credential reuse across different SSIDs can furtherprevent these attacks.