Pretty much all Wi-Fi connections are vulnerable to hackers due to a flaw in the WPA2 protocol used to secure wireless routers all over the world.
Researchers at Belgium University KU Leuven discovered a flaw in the widely used protocol that could expose traffic across wireless networks to eavesdropping, as well as allow hackers to inject and manipulate data for nefarious means, such as infecting a website with ransomware and malicious code.
“Attackers can use this novel attack technique to read information that was previously assumed to be safely encrypted,” explained researcher Mathy Vanhoef. “This can be abused to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos and so on.”
Vanhoef noted that the vulnerabiliy in the WPA2 protocol isn’t down to how providers of Wi-Fi hotpots and routers are implementing it, but a actual problem in the security standard itself.
This means there are massive amounts of wireless devices and routers that are potentiality vulnerable to hackers.
But before you go yanking out your router, Vanhoef said that the WPA2 protocol can be patched and updated to plug the security flaw the researchers discovered.
It’s worth noting that for hackers to exploit the vulnerability they need to be in close proximity to the Wi-Fi connection they’re targeting, though some connections have pretty strong signals meaning a hacker could theoretically access your Wi-Fi connection from across the road or from an neighbouring house.
And data travelling between computers to a secure website or service using the HTTPS standard should have an additional level of encryption to keep it safer from hackers.
However, those sites without HTTPS should probably be considered insecure and any data going to them across a Wi-Fi connection lacks the additional encryption and is likely open to interception.
The best way to protect against the WPA2 flaw, according to Vanhoef, is to keep an eye out for security updates for your router and ensure that you have up-to-date security software on the devices you plan to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot or router.
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