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WEP-Client-Communication-Dumbdown (WCCD) Vulnerability
From: security () hammerjammer net
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 17:23:06 +0800

ThinkSECURE Pte Ltd  (www.securitystartshere.net) has released 
details of a client-side wireless vulnerability which affects 
wireless users who are still using WEP.  

More details including mitigation actions are available at our 
website at:

### Vulnerability Name ###
WEP-Client-Communication-Dumbdown (WCCD) Vulnerability

### Vulnerability Description ### 
ThinkSECURE has discovered that certain well-known wireless chipsets, 
using vulnerable drivers under the Windows XP operating system and  
when configured to use WEP with Open Authentication, can be tricked 
by a 802.11-based wireless client adapter operating in master mode 
("the attacker") to discard the WEP settings and negotiate a post-
association conection with the attacker in the clear.  

We have named this vulnerability as the "WEP-client-communication-
dumbdown" (wccd) vulnerability.

This vulnerability is apparently not due to Windows itself but due to 
the operation of the drivers for the affected wireless cards.   
However, this does not discount a situation where a patch could be 
released by Microsoft to deal with the problem on the chipset makers' 
Again, this is apparently NOT a Windows problem but a wireless 
chipset driver-related one.

End-users of the system would not notice any difference about the 
clear connection that was being established.  
Although WPA/2 & WPA-PSK have been out for some time now, in our  
experience there is still a large installed client base who are still 
using WEP-enabled Access Points and thus have WEP-enabled profiles 
setup in their laptops.  This installed base is vulnerable.

### Vulnerability Impact ###
The vulnerability was observed in a Windows XP wireless client 
configuration with the vulnerable drivers and with the following 
1. Profile configured using Windows XP zero configuration as well as 
using the vulnerable drivers' bundled wireless client managers;
2. Profile configured to use WEP with static WEP key & Open 

Using ThinkSECURE's recently-released security auditor's tool -  
probemapper - one can remotely evaluate the SSID and capabilities of 
wireless profiles from probe requests and assess whether the subject 
is probing for any Open-Authentication-WEP-encryption-enabled 
wireless networks.

When a Windows XP client using a vulnerable chipset driver is 
configured as outlined above via their wireless profiles ("the 
victim"), the victim will send out probe requests bearing the SSID 
configured in the wireless profile.  

An attacker who detects the probe request frames coming from the 
configured profile can configure a master-mode-enabled wireless card 
with the detected SSID of the probe request frames and, using Open 
Authentication with no-encryption, send probe responses to the 

The victim will then initiate authentication and association, sending 
an association request frame with the Privacy Bit set to 1 (AP/STA 
can support WEP).  
The attacker returns an association response frame with Privacy Bit 
set to 0 (AP/STA cannot support WEP).

Although the correct behavior should be to not establish any 
communication due to the difference between association request and 
response Privacy Bits, the victim "dumbs-down" and establishes an un-
encrypted communications session to match the attacker's Privacy Bit 
setting of 0, thus ignoring the WEP settings as configured in the 
client's profile. All traffic to & from this connection will be sent 
in the clear.

A victim who has a vulnerable wireless network at home and brings a 
laptop bearing the profile of said home wireless network to his/her 
organization and plugs in using a wired connection may be attacked in 
this manner and used as a conduit by the attacker, through the 
bridging of the laptop's wireless interface to the wired interface, 
to the victim's organization's wired network, thus bypassing 
corporate perimeter defences. It is irrelevant that the organization 
does not use wireless or has a no-wireless policy if that policy is 
not strictly enforced through proactive checking.

Also, firewalling on the victim's laptop might not guarantee safety 
in certain cases: e.g. the attacker issues an IP address and gateway 
address to the victim in response to the victim's typical DHCP 
request upon association so as to fool the victim's machine into 
forwarding all traffic to the attacker's machine. The result is that, 
when the victim opens up a web browser for example, he will see a 
crafted page bearing malicious code on the attacker's machine which 
runs exploit code on the victim's machine (a good example being the 
recent WMF vulnerability) to give the attacker a reverse shell into 
the victim, where the attacker can then do the bridging of the 
interface or anything else he wants.

### Vulnerability Cause ###
In our testing, we have narrowed down the cause of the problem to 
stem from the way certain chipset manufacturer drivers deployed for 
the Windows platform operate in handling an association.

Affected chipset manufacturer(s) have been notified via their website 
contact addresses.

In the interests of responsible disclosure, we will not be stating 
which chipset drivers which we tested as vulnerable for a minimum 
period of 14 days after this vulnerability advisory, thus giving time 
for the notified vendors to issue non-vulnerable drivers. (dated 16 
Jan 2006) 

### Vulnerability Discovery Acknowledgment ###
Christopher Low & Julian Ho of ThinkSECURE Pte Ltd 
(http://www.securitystartshere.net) discovered and researched this 
vulnerability from Dec 2005 to 15 Jan 2006."

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