Notebooks equipped with WLAN module dangerously insecure

In small and medium-sized entities (SMEs) there is an ever increasing usage of notebooks equipped with a WLAN adapter which turns on automatically during Windows installation. The possessors of such notebooks are under the threat of air attacks! As was reported by the Pressetext news agency, the discovery of defective WLAN drivers is causing quite a lot of anxiety. David Maynor, a research engineer with Internet Security Systems (ISS) and Jon Ellch, a student at the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, not only have found out that quite a lot of WLAN device drivers present several technical security weaknesses, but they also discovered that these weaknesses can be easily exploited by attackers. Important to know: WLAN notebooks may be attacked even if not connected to any network. In fifty percent of cases, notebooks with the WLAN mode not switched off automatically scanned the skies for a suitable network connection.

“Dealing with the subject of WLAN computer drivers you can’t help feeling like in the Wild West at the moment”, says Maynor, who wants to furnish evidence of relevant fatal attacks on the occasion of the Blackhat conference which will take place in Las Vegas in August. It is said that pre-made computer shareware makes it possible even for so-called script kiddies to carry out successful WLAN attacks. Another part of the problem is the fact that many software engineers developing these faulty computer drivers do not care at all about security issues. Another point for criticism is the overloading of drivers and notebooks with features which quite often are to blame for security weaknesses, adds Mr Maynor.

We recommend: Even if the notebook is not to be connected to a WLAN network, make sure during its configuration to set up a virtual dummy WLAN network securing it with a network key. This will at least prevent the notebook from establishing automatic and unnoticed connections to ad hoc networks as is explained by Heise. However, this measure does not provide any protection against the attacks facilitated by the driver defects discovered by Mr. Maynor. GERMAN