DHS Discovers New Wi-Fi Security Exploit

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WESLACO – A security gap can leave anyone who uses wireless internet technology vulnerable. From sending e-mails to messages, to even paying bills, people are almost always tapped into a Wi-Fi network.

“We need it these days, that's the way the world works, fortunately and unfortunately,” said Carmen Marquez-Luettich.

Like most people, Marquez-Luettich uses the internet both at home and for work. She said most of her devices are connected to wireless networks.

“In my home, there's Wi-Fi. We use it for the TV, for our computers, for our phones,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Computer Emergency Readiness Team discovered a flaw in Wi-Fi encryption technology called WPA2.

“If someone employs this exploit, they can intercept some of the data coming through your Wi-Fi,” said KRGV Chief Engineer Mike Leal. “For example, if it was a wireless point of sale type system they could totally just grab the content coming from the card readers and read it in real time.”

Leal said hackers could target businesses which use sales devices connected to Wi-Fi. He said other devices are also vulnerable.

“No one is probably going to be walking into your place taking your data right now, but the fact that it's exploitable is obviously a risk and you'll want to mitigate that as much as possible,” he advised.

Leal said there is only one real fix at the moment. But it leaves consumers and businesses waiting for a solution.

“Hard-wiring is going to be the workaround for now until the manufacturers release patches,” Leal said.

Leal said major manufacturers of wireless networking devices like Linksys are working on patches to fix the vulnerability. He said users should make sure they’re updating devices in the coming weeks for a fix.

The following are some general ways you can protect your Wi-Fi networks in general:

  • Always change the default username and password to your Wi-Fi router
  • Always enable what's called a Firewall in your Wi-Fi network's settings
  • Update the software on your devices and networking equipment regularly

For more details on the vulnerability, you can read the government’s report online.


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