Musings of an infosec nerd
Why the London 2012 WiFi network will be a boon for information theives
- Wed 11 January 2012
I was reading twitter the other day and came across a report on London getting blanketed by free WiFi coverage courtesy of O2 and this got me thinking. If I were a bad guy this would present me with such a very tasty target. Lots of tourists coming into the city for the Olympics with all of their laptops, smart phones and tables. All of them not wanting to spend huge amounts on 3G roaming but thirsty for information and posting thousands of pics to Facebook and twitter. Of course they are going to take advantage of this free service, and so will the criminals.
In order to offer this service free of charge then security will always take a back seat. After all the information flowing over the network isn't O2's is it? They aren't going to give each user a certificate to authenticate to the AP, and they aren't going to configure everyone's device to verify the cert on the AP. I mean who are we kidding, they aren't even going to implement WEP let alone WPA2. At best it will be a captive portal so they can grab some nice info to sell on to their advertising buddies.
So now you are in London, you've taken some photos, waved at the Queen and taunted the guards outside Buckingham palace. You're ready to drop it all of Facebook so you're friends know just how much better you are than them. Time to connect to the free WiFi!
Open up your WiFi connection manager and there is "London Free WiFi from O2" [OPEN], sweet.
Select the AP and voilà, IP address obtained and I'm all ready to go.
Open up Internet Explorer and I get a nice O2 registration page where you can sign up for a free account or log on with an existing one. You put in your name, address, date of birth, mothers maiden name email address etc and are issued a default password. You don't bother changing this, you just want to get on Facebook.
Log into Facebook and post pics. Look at your friends posts and comment "lol". Isn't living in the future cool?
The above sounds like a plausible use case for most people in the city and for most people they won't see anything wrong with it. After all, they had to put in a password right, so it must be secure? Well, not so much. You see, while the tourist was sitting down with their latte to make their Facebook friends jealous, what actually was happening was this.
A criminal sets themselves up in a high traffic area of the city, probably near one of the sporting events. They fire up their laptop with an ALFA AWUS051NH wireless network adapter and 5dBi antenna.They will then fire up a copy of Karma. Now, Karma is a very generous piece of code. It will listen on the WiFi card and wait to hear other devices probing for access points. Usually when and AP receives a broadcast for an SSID that it doesn't host it will simply ignore it, but Karma will answer all probes with a positive and allow the client to connect to it. Karma will then give the client and access point and begin to handle traffic. At this point Karma shows its generous nature again and will start answering requests for connections on a large number of protocols such as SMTP and FTP, it will use these connections to harvest the users credentials. If the criminal is being particularly evil they will be running Karmetasploit to automatically detect the software that you are using and start feeding them backdoors and exploits, joining you to their botnet and saving your machine to have more fun with later.
If the criminal is feeling generous he will connect himself to the legitimate WiFi and route your traffic onwards so you can actually surf, and he can steal even more credentials.
So how do you get around this? is there a way to use this service safely? If you want to give yourself a level of privacy while using a public network then your only real option is to connect via VPN to another trusted network and run all of your traffic through that. You are still exposed to having your credentials harvested between establishing connection to the network and establishing connection to the VPN, but if you are careful and make sure there are no apps that are going to attempt to connect as soon as they have a valid network then you should be OK. Also, make sure your anti-virus is up to date, but DO THAT AT HOME! you will see why in a bit.
If your smart phone supports VPN's then it should be safe to use them as well, if not then either don't use it, or use 3G. Check out openVPN to set up a service at your home that you can connect back to.
On the subject of software that will try to connect as soon as it gets a connection, it's not just email apps that will do this. If you have Java, Acrobat, Flash or a host of other apps installed then they will attempt to connect back to their mothership and download updates. If our criminal is being very evil he will also be running evilgrade. Evilgrade is like Karma but for updates, it will intercept traffic and look for software calling home for updates. When it finds one it will intercept the connection and send the computer malware instead of the updates it was expecting. Welcome to the criminals botnet. The only defence is to make sure you are using a VPN but you will still be exposed to attack before you have established the connection or if it drops out for any reason. This article give some details on some third-party software you could use to help with this.
Everything that I have said above applies just the same to using any public network, but I contest that this combination of such a large public network with so many foreign tourists who will not want to use 3G due to costs makes this a golden opportunity for information thieves. So spread the word, make sure that your friends and family understand the risks, and as @j4vv4d would say, "Stay secure my friends".