WiFi is a must in every smartphone, but Today’s report brings bad news for enthusiasts who use WiFi excessively for their daily online interactions.
All of them are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, carried out via Wi-Fi connections.
Man in the Middle Attack (MITM)
A man‐in‐the‐middle attack intercepts communication between two systems by relaying
messages between them. In this attack, the attacker makes an independent connection with both
of the victim’s machines. The attacker machine forces the traffic between the victim’s machines
to route through it by sending a false ARP reply to both machines. The attacker can than create
new connections and kill existing connections, as well as view and replay anything that is private
between the targets machines.
According to the report by SMobile Systems, smartphone users connecting to unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspots can be easily compromised by knowledgeable attackers using an array of existing tools. The authors of the study used those tools to intercept username/password combinations sent from several different smartphones.
The Test Setup
All the major smartphones were tested, (as already listed). The tests used a laptop with software tools to intercept (capture) communications between smartphones connecting to a Wi-Fi access point, and then to bypass SSL. That information was then used to access a variety of e-mail accounts. The same information could be used to access an online banking account or other information.
The tools mentioned below are just a few of the possible tools that an attacker could use to
perform a successful MITM attack and break the security provided by SSL.
1) Arpspoof: It redirects packets from a target host on the LAN to the intended host on the same LAN.
It does so by forging the ARP replies to target host.
2) SSLStrip: Allows for the transparent hijacking of HTTP traffic on a network, watches for HTTPS
links and redirects, and then maps those links into either look‐alike HTTP links or
homograph‐similar HTTPS links. It also supports modes for supplying a favicon that
looks like a lock icon, selective logging, and session denial.
3) Wireshark: A multipurpose sniffer/interceptor/logging utility for switched LAN’s. It is also used to
implement MITM attacks in the networked environment . Whereas, Wireshark is a
network protocol analyzer and is often used as packet sniffer .
More detail on the attack is found in the full report.
In each case, the user would have had no idea that their information had been compromised.
“Utilizing this method, the attacker has effectively told the victim device to route all traffic through the attacker’s machine [laptop], and the attacker machine then forwards the requests to the Wi-Fi hotspot.” The attack computer captures all the traffic and can modify or kill active connections. With SSL bypassed, as soon as the victim accesses an e-mail or other account, the login credentials will appear in plain text on the attack computer.
The authors of the study warn smartphone users to “seek out and identify applications that provide adequate encryption technologies to protect confidential or private information.” Applications for doing so exist, but are still rare, the authors note. The end-to-end encryption should be implemented, ignorance at the Client side could lead to havocs.
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