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WiFi Security Questions

Posted on 2014-02-09
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Last Modified: 2014-04-01
1. If I connect to an unsecured public WiFi, and someone is capturing packets, will he be able to capture and read all my unecrypted data?
2. If it's secured by WPA, does that prevent him from capturing data?
3. Is cellphone data secure?

Thanks!
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Question by:epichero22
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Dan Craciun earned 125 total points
ID: 39845859
1. Yes
2. No. He will still be able to capture the data, but he will need to decrypt it. The packets still travel on the same medium (air) even when encrypted.
3. From who?
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by:Jelcin
ID: 39845884
2. If he / she has the WPA key and is in the same wlan then he is able to capture the packets without having to decrypt it.
3. Cell phone data in general is secure but of course it can be captured for example by NSA :)
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Expert Comment

by:Kent Dyer
ID: 39845917
If you Google PCWorld's 5 Wi-Fi Security Myths you need to abandon now will help you understand this.  For the encryption (WPA/WPA-2), you need a PSK (Pre-Shared) key to get on your WPA or WPA-2..  Do stay away from WEP as it is pretty easily cracked.
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by:Darr247
Darr247 earned 125 total points
ID: 39846108
> 2. If he / she has the WPA key and is in the same wlan then he is
able to capture the packets without having to decrypt it.

That's not accurate. If it's WPA2/AES they would both have different encryption vectors, set when their sessions were negotiated, using different NONCE values.  The data are not encrypted using only the 8 to 63 character passphrase.
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by:Craig Beck
Craig Beck earned 250 total points
ID: 39848699
+1 for Darr's comment.

The data is encrypted on a per-session basis between client and AP and the session-key is unique per client.  The data is only decrypted by the AP or client.

If clients connected to the same AP are exchanging data it is decrypted at the AP then re-encrypted with the particular receiving client's session details before it gets to him.

If the data leaves the AP on the wired-side it is decrypted before it goes on the wire, but then the data isn't sniffable by a wireless client.

That's not to say that it's completely secure though.  Once you have the PSK you can grab some over-the-air packets and attempt to decrypt them using the information you already have and a dictionary, for example.
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by:epichero22
ID: 39905054
What about networks that have no security, but you need to login through a webpage before it lets you browse?  Can someone else still see what I'm sending / receiving?
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by:Craig Beck
Craig Beck earned 250 total points
ID: 39905095
Yes.  The traffic over-the-air is completely unencrypted after the initial login (usually via HTTPS).

You could use a VPN service to encrypt your traffic using IPSec if you use an open hotspot.
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