We discovered serious weaknesses in WPA2, a protocol that secures all modern protected Wi-Fi networks. An attacker within range of a victim can exploit these weaknesses using key reinstallation attacks (KRACKs). Concretely, attackers can use this novel attack technique to read information that was previously assumed to be safely encrypted. This can be abused to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos, and so on. The attack works against all modern protected Wi-Fi networks. Depending on the network configuration, it is also possible to inject and manipulate data. For example, an attacker might be able to inject ransomware or other malware into websites.
The weaknesses are in the Wi-Fi standard itself, and not in individual products or implementations. Therefore, any correct implementation of WPA2 is likely affected. To prevent the attack, users must update affected products as soon as security updates become available. Note that if your device supports Wi-Fi, it is most likely affected. During our initial research, we discovered ourselves that Android, Linux, Apple, Windows, OpenBSD, MediaTek, Linksys, and others, are all affected by some variant of the attacks. For more information about specific products, consult the database of CERT/CC, or contact your vendor.
The research behind the attack will be presented at the Computer and Communications Security (CCS) conference, and at the Black Hat Europe conference. Our detailed research paper can already be downloaded.
As a proof-of-concept we executed a key reinstallation attack against an Android smartphone. In this demonstration, the attacker is able to decrypt all data that the victim transmits. For an attacker this is easy to accomplish, because our key reinstallation attack is exceptionally devastating against Linux and Android 6.0 or higher. This is because Android and Linux can be tricked into (re)installing an all-zero encryption key (see below for more info). When attacking other devices, it is harder to decrypt all packets, although a large number of packets can nevertheless be decrypted. In any case, the following demonstration highlights the type of information that an attacker can obtain when performing key reinstallation attacks against protected Wi-Fi networks:
Our attack is not limited to recovering login credentials (i.e. e-mail addresses and passwords). In general, any data or information that the victim transmits can be decrypted. Additionally, depending on the device being used and the network setup, it is also possible to decrypt data sent towards the victim (e.g. the content of a website). Although websites or apps may use HTTPS as an additional layer of protection, we warn that this extra protection can (still) be bypassed in a worrying number of situations. For example, HTTPS was previously bypassed in non-browser software, in Apple’s iOS and OS X, in Android apps, in Android apps again, in banking apps, and even in VPN apps.
Our main attack is against the 4-way handshake of the WPA2 protocol. This handshake is executed when a client wants to join a protected Wi-Fi network, and is used to confirm that both the client and access point possess the correct credentials (e.g. the pre-shared password of the network). At the same time, the 4-way handshake also negotiates a fresh encryption key that will be used to encrypt all subsequent traffic. Currently, all modern protected Wi-Fi networks use the 4-way handshake. This implies all these networks are affected by (some variant of) our attack. For instance, the attack works against personal and enterprise Wi-Fi networks, against the older WPA and the latest WPA2 standard, and even against networks that only use AES. All our attacks against WPA2 use a novel technique called a key reinstallation attack (KRACK):
Key reinstallation attacks: high level description
In a key reinstallation attack, the adversary tricks a victim into reinstalling an already-in-use key. This is achieved by manipulating and replaying cryptographic handshake messages. When the victim reinstalls the key, associated parameters such as the incremental transmit packet number (i.e. nonce) and receive packet number (i.e. replay counter) are reset to their initial value. Essentially, to guarantee security, a key should only be installed and used once. Unfortunately, we found this is not guaranteed by the WPA2 protocol. By manipulating cryptographic handshakes, we can abuse this weakness in practice.
Key reinstallation attacks: concrete example against the 4-way handshake
As described in the introduction of the research paper, the idea behind a key reinstallation attack can be summarized as follows. When a client joins a network, it executes the 4-way handshake to negotiate a fresh encryption key. It will install this key after receiving message 3 of the 4-way handshake. Once the key is installed, it will be used to encrypt normal data frames using an encryption protocol. However, because messages may be lost or dropped, the Access Point (AP) will retransmit message 3 if it did not receive an appropriate response as acknowledgment. As a result, the client may receive message 3 multiple times. Each time it receives this message, it will reinstall the same encryption key, and thereby reset the incremental transmit packet number (nonce) and receive replay counter used by the encryption protocol. We show that an attacker can force these nonce resets by collecting and replaying retransmissions of message 3 of the 4-way handshake. By forcing nonce reuse in this manner, the encryption protocol can be attacked, e.g., packets can be replayed, decrypted, and/or forged. The same technique can also be used to attack the group key, PeerKey, TDLS, and fast BSS transition handshake.
In our opinion, the most widespread and practically impactful attack is the key reinstallation attack against the 4-way handshake. We base this judgement on two observations. First, during our own research we found that most clients were affected by it. Second, adversaries can use this attack to decrypt packets sent by clients, allowing them to intercept sensitive information such as passwords or cookies. Decryption of packets is possible because a key reinstallation attack causes the transmit nonces (sometimes also called packet numbers or initialization vectors) to be reset to zero. As a result, the same encryption key is used with nonce values that have already been used in the past. In turn, this causes all encryption protocols of WPA2 to reuse keystream when encrypting packets. In case a message that reuses keystream has known content, it becomes trivial to derive the used keystream. This keystream can then be used to decrypt messages with the same nonce. When there is no known content, it is harder to decrypt packets, although still possible in several cases (e.g. English text can still be decrypted). In practice, finding packets with known content is not a problem, so it should be assumed that any packet can be decrypted.
The ability to decrypt packets can be used to decrypt TCP SYN packets. This allows an adversary to obtain the TCP sequence numbers of a connection, and hijack TCP connections. As a result, even though WPA2 is used, the adversary can now perform one of the most common attacks against open Wi-Fi networks: injecting malicious data into unencrypted HTTP connections. For example, an attacker can abuse this to inject ransomware or malware into websites that the victim is visiting.
If the victim uses either the WPA-TKIP or GCMP encryption protocol, instead of AES-CCMP, the impact is especially catastrophic.Against these encryption protocols, nonce reuse enables an adversary to not only decrypt, but also to forge and inject packets. Moreover, because GCMP uses the same authentication key in both communication directions, and this key can be recovered if nonces are reused, it is especially affected. Note that support for GCMP is currently being rolled out under the name Wireless Gigabit (WiGig), and is expected to be adopted at a high rate over the next few years.
The direction in which packets can be decrypted (and possibly forged) depends on the handshake being attacked. Simplified, when attacking the 4-way handshake, we can decrypt (and forge) packets sent by the client. When attacking the Fast BSS Transition (FT) handshake, we can decrypt (and forge) packets sent towards the client. Finally, most of our attacks also allow the replay of unicast, broadcast, and multicast frames. For further details, see Section 6 of our research paper.
Note that our attacks do not recover the password of the Wi-Fi network. They also do not recover (any parts of) the fresh encryption key that is negotiated during the 4-way handshake.
Android and Linux
Our attack is especially catastrophic against version 2.4 and above of wpa_supplicant, a Wi-Fi client commonly used on Linux. Here, the client will install an all-zero encryption key instead of reinstalling the real key. This vulnerability appears to be caused by a remark in the Wi-Fi standard that suggests to clear the encryption key from memory once it has been installed for the first time. When the client now receives a retransmitted message 3 of the 4-way handshake, it will reinstall the now-cleared encryption key, effectively installing an all-zero key. Because Android uses wpa_supplicant, Android 6.0 and above also contains this vulnerability. This makes it trivial to intercept and manipulate traffic sent by these Linux and Android devices. Note that currently 41% of Android devices are vulnerable to this exceptionally devastating variant of our attack.
Assigned CVE identifiers
The following Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) identifiers were assigned to track which products are affected by specific instantiations of our key reinstallation attack:
- CVE-2017-13077: Reinstallation of the pairwise encryption key (PTK-TK) in the 4-way handshake.
- CVE-2017-13078: Reinstallation of the group key (GTK) in the 4-way handshake.
- CVE-2017-13079: Reinstallation of the integrity group key (IGTK) in the 4-way handshake.
- CVE-2017-13080: Reinstallation of the group key (GTK) in the group key handshake.
- CVE-2017-13081: Reinstallation of the integrity group key (IGTK) in the group key handshake.
- CVE-2017-13082: Accepting a retransmitted Fast BSS Transition (FT) Reassociation Request and reinstalling the pairwise encryption key (PTK-TK) while processing it.
- CVE-2017-13084: Reinstallation of the STK key in the PeerKey handshake.
- CVE-2017-13086: reinstallation of the Tunneled Direct-Link Setup (TDLS) PeerKey (TPK) key in the TDLS handshake.
- CVE-2017-13087: reinstallation of the group key (GTK) when processing a Wireless Network Management (WNM) Sleep Mode Response frame.
- CVE-2017-13088: reinstallation of the integrity group key (IGTK) when processing a Wireless Network Management (WNM) Sleep Mode Response frame.
Note that each CVE identifier represents a specific instantiation of a key reinstallation attack. This means each CVE ID describes a specific protocol vulnerability, and therefore many vendors are affected by each individual CVE ID. You can also read vulnerability note VU#228519 of CERT/CC for additional details on which products are known to be affected.
Working as a cyber security solutions architect, Alisa focuses on application and network security. Before joining us she held a cyber security researcher positions within a variety of cyber security start-ups. She also experience in different industry domains like finance, healthcare and consumer products.