Wireless networks have made human life more accessible and manageable. We can easily connect to the network or the device connected to the network to access the internet with ease. Anyone having the network security key of a particular device connected to the network can access the internet.
In this technological epoch, hacking has increased at an extensive rate. So, a person in the transmission radius of the wireless network can hack its security key. It is indispensable to keep your wireless network safe and secure from attacks.
What is the Wireless Network?
Wireless Network is a computer network that does not require cables or wired connections to connect to the system. In this digital era, wireless networking is used at a higher intensity. A wireless network is practically beneficial in reducing the cost required for installing the wired cables and connections. Instead of using wires or cables, the wireless network enables users to connect to the network via radio waves.
In the wireless network, multiple computers and other devices are connected with others via radio waves. The entire implementation of the wireless network is carried out in the physical layer of the OSI model. The physical layer is the first layer of the OSI model. The wireless network offers higher flexibility and high standards.
There are four types of the wireless network as listed below:
- WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network)
- WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network)
- WMAN (Wireless Metropolitan Area Network)
- WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Network)
Let us see each of the above wireless network types in detail.
WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network)
Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is the first type of wireless network formed by connecting to or more computer systems, covering limited and small areas, like schools, office buildings, homes, etc. People using the particular WLAN have to remain in its transmission radius to stay connected to the network. The WLAN is further categorized into two types:
WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network)
Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN) is another type of wireless network covering vast areas or has a higher transmission radius than the Local Area Network. You can also refer to WWAN as Mobile Broadband as it uses mobile networks, like 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G. Additionally, this type of wireless network is connected to LANs and MANs. The Wireless Wide Area Network is a connection to multiple Local Area Networks.
WMAN (Wireless Metropolitan Area Network)
The third type of wireless network is the Wireless Metropolitan Area Network (WMAN). As its name suggests, this type of wireless system covers the entire metropolitan area under its transmission radius. It can be extended up to 50 km. The Wireless Metropolitan Area is specially developed to cover larger areas or cities than the Local Area Network.
WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Network)
Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) is the wireless network type developed for personal use. This type of wireless system covers a shorter range of areas as compared to LAN, WAN, and MAN. The coverage area of PAN is approximately 30 feet and uses Bluetooth technology for connecting devices.
Difference between WLAN, WWAN, WMAN, and WPAN
The below table will make you clear about the exact difference between each of the four types of wireless networks:
|WLAN implies Wireless Local Area Network.||WWAN means Wireless Wide Area Network.||WMAN refers to as Wireless Metropolitan Network.||WPAN is an acronym for Wireless Personal Area Network.|
|WLAN covers an area of a few kilometers long, i.e., approximately 10 km.||WWAN is specially meant to cover the area of the entire country or continent.||WMAN has the capability of covering the complete metropolitan area, i.e., approximately 100 km.||WPAN is specially developed for personal workspace. The coverage area of the WPAN is significantly less, i.e., up to 10 meters.|
|The cost of installing a WLAN is inexpensive and affordable.||As WWAN covers the entire country, the cost of installing it is very high and expensive.||To install a WMAN the cost is moderately expensive.||WPAN can be installed with a significantly less amount. This amount is negligible as compared to the other three.|
|The transmission speed of the WLAN is high.||The WWAN offers low transmission speed.||The WMAN offers moderate speed for data transmission.||You get a breakneck speed using WPAN.|
How to access the wireless network?
You can easily access the internet connection through wireless networks on your devices, like laptops, computers, tablets, and mobile devices. The only requirement is you must be present in the area or transmission radius of the device or access point that you need to connect. As mentioned in the above table, make sure to stay inside the transmission radius according to the wireless network type.
When you are present inside the field of transmission radius of a particular wireless network device or access point, your device will display its name on the screen. You just need to select that specific device or access point name. When you click on the particular access point or device name, you need to enter the unique identification characters, called network security key. If the network is not password-protected, you can connect directly.
Anyone can use open networks without requiring any password for gaining an internet connection. To prevent users from connecting to the available open networks, the network security key is used. These network keys are of two types, WEP and WPA.
Wireless Network Keys – WEP and WPA
The two authentication techniques, WEP and WPA, are used for protecting the network access point. Using these techniques, you can keep your network protected with strong passwords. So, whenever any person tries to connect to the system, he or she needs to enter the password. Let us see in detail each of these authentication techniques.
WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy. It is specially developed to work for IEEE 802.11 wireless networks. The primary goal of the Wired Equivalent Privacy is to offer privacy or confidentiality to the data. When the data is transmitted over the wireless network using the WEP authentication method, encryption of the information transferred is performed to ensure data security and confidentiality.
WEP further uses two different methods of authentication – Open System Authentication and Shared Key Authentication.
- Open System Authentication (OSA):
In Open System Authentication, users connecting to the LAN do not have to provide the WEP key to connect to the network. The WEP authentication key is used only for data encryption purposes and not for authentication use. So, even if the WEP key is not useful in authentication purposes, users have to enter the correct key for data encryption purposes.
- Shared Key Authentication (SKA):
The WEP key in the Shared Key Authentication is useful in carrying out the challenge-response handshake process. This process is performed in four steps as follows:
- The user trying to connect to the particular network access point sends an authentication request to it.
- Once the network access point receives an authentication request, it responds with a clear-text challenge to the user.
- In the third step, the user uses the WEP key to encrypt the clear-text challenge. After the challenge text is encrypted, the user again sends an authentication request to the network.
- The network access point decodes the encrypted request of the user. After the description, if the request is the same as the clear-text challenge, it allows users to connect.
There are some flaws in the WEP authentication key. These flaws are listed below:
- In the WEP authentication, the data encryption is done when the user requests to connect to the network. The algorithm used for encryption is the RC4 algorithm that generates stream ciphers. The input to the stream cipher is a 64-bit and 128-bit long key. This key is made up of the Initialization Vector and Secret key. The first 24 bits in the key are contributed by the Initialization Vector (IV), and the remaining are of the secret key. The number of characters in the secret key in this method is concise, and anyone can crack it.
- When the information is transferred between the user and the network, it is sent and received in packets. Whenever the packet is transmitted, it is necessary to check its integrity. The algorithm of the Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) is used to check the integrity of data packets. But, hackers can easily modify encrypted bits and checksum. So, the use of CRC is not feasible for security purposes.
- There is no key management system offered by the WEP authentication system.
Due to the above reasons, WEP is less secure, and attackers can easily hack Wi-Fi passwords. The security drawbacks of WEP led to the development of the WPA authentication method.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is an advanced authentication method developed to ensure the Wi-Fi password’s security. It has three programs, like WPA, WPA 2, and WPA 3. It is compatible to work with IEEE 802.11i standards.
In the WPA authentication methods, the algorithm used for data encryption is the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP). The significant advantage of using the WPA authentication method is the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol produces a unique 128-bit key for every data packet being transmitted between the client and the network. So, there are very few chances of attacks in the WPA.
Another benefit of using the WPA authentication method is utilizing the Message Integrity Check (MIC). This technique avoids hackers altering or modifying the original data transferred between the user and the network access point. Unlike the Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC), the Message Integrity Check (MIC) is entirely capable of ensuring the data packets’ integrity.
How to Crack Wireless Network?
We have seen the two authentication methods, WEP and WPA. Cracking the wireless network implies connecting to the network access point unauthorizedly and violating its security. When the network gets cracked, any unauthorized user can connect to the access point.
Cracking is divided into two types:
- Passive Cracking: The passive cracking does not have its effect on the network traffic. But, when the WEP key gets cracked or damaged, it affects the network as well. It is difficult for users to detect passive cracking.
- Active Cracking: The load on the network traffic can be experienced in the case of active cracking. Users can quickly identify that the active cracking is taking place.
Now, let us focus on interpreting the WEP and WPA authentication methods.
WEP cracking means damaging the network that uses the WEP authentication protocol for ensuring security. Several tools are available that assist people in cracking the WEP key. To crack the WEP key, the hacker has to capture the Initialization Vector or data packets. After capturing data packets, cracking tools can easily crack WEP.
Some commonly used tools for WEP cracking are given below:
- Aircrack-ng: This tool is usually used for WEP cracking as well as for network sniffing.
- WEPCrack: You can use this tool for free to crack WEP. The great advantage of this tool is it can also crack IEEE 802.11 WEP secret key. It is commonly used for FSM attacks.
- Kismet: This cracking tool incorporates a detector that detects visible and hidden wireless networks for sniffing and attacks.
- WebDecrypt: Using the WebDecrypt tool, hackers can crack WEP using dictionary attacks. This tool is capable of producing its unique keys.
We know that WPA is more secure than WEP because it uses 256-bits pre-shared keys for security and authentication. The hacker can quickly attack the keys having a short length of characters. Even though WPA uses more excellent length keys, WPA cracking tools can crack the WPA key.
Some commonly used WPA cracking tools are as follows:
- CowPatty: This tool for WPA cracking uses a Brute Force attack to crack 256-bits pre-shared keys (PSK).
- Cain & Abel: Cain & Abel is a powerful software tool capable of capturing the data from sniffing attacks and obtaining WPA pre-shared keys (PSK).
Steps on How to hack Wi-Fi (Wireless) Network
We have seen some tools for WEP and WPA cracking used commonly for hacking purposes. Now, let us know what the steps for hacking any Wi-Fi network are. We will use the Cain & Abel software tool and elaborate on how to hack Wi-Fi. The steps for how to hack Wi-Fi are as follows:
- First, you need to download and install the Cain & Abel software tool if it is not present on your desktop.
- Once you install the Cain & Abel tool, click on its icon to start.
- The screen will appear, displaying multiple options and menus. You have to click on the Decoders tab.
- After that, you will notice an option of Wireless Passwords on the left-panel of the screen. Click on it.
- Later, you will notice a plugin button represented by the symbol ‘+.’ Click on the plugins options.
- Make sure that you are connected to the particular password-protected wireless network before that you desire to hack.
- After clicking on the plugin button, the list of the network name (SSID), previous and current passwords, and encryption methods are displayed on the screen.
After going through the above steps, you will find it very manageable to hack the particular network’s Wi-Fi password that you have used earlier. The measures, as mentioned above, are meant to hack the Wi-Fi password on the Microsoft Windows operating systems. But, keep in mind that we have used the Cain & Abel cracking tool. The steps for hacking Wi-Fi passwords vary from software to software.
How to keep your wireless network safe and protected?
Keeping the network safe and secure from attacks and unauthorized access is essential. Otherwise, the data transmitted between the client and the access point can be accessed by the hacker, and the safe data transmission would be threatened. The following are some key points to keep your wireless network protected from hackers:
- The first step to avoid hackers from threatening your wireless network is using the firewall software. This software is used at a growing pace these days. The firewall software restricts unauthorized users from accessing the system. Only authorized users can handle network traffic.
- Another crucial step to be followed is to change your Wi-Fi password frequently or at least every three months. Additionally, use passwords in such a way that they must contain uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Such types of passwords are strong.
- You must use an anti-virus software tool to prevent viruses, spyware, and malware from damaging your network.
- Provide access to only those devices that have their MAC addresses already registered.
You can follow these tips to protect your wireless network from hackers and attacks.
The security of the Wireless Network plays a vital role. Any unauthorized access to the network can damage the data and threaten network security. To avoid unauthorized access, the network security key is used. Any user trying to connect to the particular network must enter its respective network security key or password. We have seen two types of network security keys, WEP and WPA.
WEP key is less secure, and hence, there arises a need for a WPA key. The WPA key is relatively safe. Later, we have covered the concept of cracking. Several tools are used for WEP and WPA cracking. Using one of the popular cracking tools, Cain & Abel, we have seen the actions to execute for hacking any previously used Wi-Fi network.