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Scholars Day: April 15, 2009

Providing Robust Security in Real-World Wireless Networks: Models, Threats and Solutions

Wi-Fi networks differ from wired networks in that they do not have strict physical boundaries. During data transmission, information is typically broadcast into free space; the same data-carrying electromagnetic-waves captured by genuine users can also be hijacked by malicious users. Hence, before providing security using software e.g., user verification, passwords etc., it is important to set up a secure physical environment. We first discuss various strategies for setting up boundaries for the Wi-Fi signal such that we can physically limit the broadcast range of the network. Further, we study different wireless routers (e.g., using IEEE 802.11 a/b/g technologies) and antenna types (e.g., directional, omni-directional), and discuss their advantages and disadvantages in different scenarios as it relates to network security. Next, we focus on the routerís software protections. We discuss different encryption standards (e.g., WEP, WPA etc.) and encryption levels (e.g., 64, 128, 256) and analyze their pros and cons such as encryption strength, time and memory resources for proving security, impact on end-user, government policies etc. We analyze hacking techniques such as brute force attacks, MAC address spoofing, and offer suggestions for handling these problems such as dynamic encryption key management, MAC address filtering and connection time out limits etc. We also discuss phishing and pharming tricks usually seen in false e-mails and instant messages, and methods for disarming these security attacks. We use key loggers to demonstrate how easy it is to capture key strokes and steal passwords and discuss the need for a virtual keyboard in order to circumvent this flaw. By using the approaches identified in our paper, we can protect the growing number of Wi-Fi users from great security risks.

Presenter: Martin Georgiev (Undergraduate Student)
Topic: Computer Science
Location: 127 Hartwell
Time: 2:30 pm (Session IV)

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