Securing IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs

Ross, David Andrew (2010) Securing IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

As the acceptance and popularity of wireless networking technologies has proliferated, the security of the IEEE 802.11 wireless local area network (WLAN) has advanced in leaps and bounds. From tenuous beginnings, where the only safe way to deploy a WLAN was to assume it was hostile and employ higherlayer information security controls, to the current state of the art, all manner of improvements have been conceived and many implemented. This work investigates some of the remaining issues surrounding IEEE 802.11 WLAN operation. While the inherent issues in WLAN deployments and the problems of the original Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) provisions are well known and widely documented, there still exist a number of unresolved security issues. These include the security of management and control frames and the data link layer protocols themselves. This research introduces a novel proposal to enhance security at the link layer of IEEE 802.11 WLANs and then conducts detailed theoretical and empirical investigation and analysis of the eects of such proposals. This thesis �rst de�nes the state of the art in WLAN technology and deployment, including an overview of the current and emerging standards, the various threats, numerous vulnerabilities and current exploits. The IEEE 802.11i MAC security enhancements are discussed in detail, along with the likely outcomes of the IEEE 802.11 Task Group W1, looking into protected management frames. The problems of the remaining unprotected management frames, the unprotected control frames and the unprotected link layer headers are reviewed and a solution is hypothesised, to encrypt the entire MAC Protocol Data Unit (MPDU), including the MAC headers, not just the MAC Service Data Unit (MSDU) commonly performed by existing protocols. The proposal is not just to encrypt a copy of the headers while still using cleartext addresses to deliver the frame, as used by some existing protocols to support the integrity and authenticity of the headers, but to pass the entire MPDU only as ciphertext to also support the con�dentiality of the frame header information. This necessitates the decryption of every received frame using every available key before a station can determine if it is the intended recipient. As such, this raises serious concerns as to the viability of any such proposal due to the likely impact on throughput and scalability. The bulk of the research investigates the impacts of such proposals on the current WLAN protocols. Some possible variations to the proposal are also provided to enhance both utility and speed. The viability this proposal with respect to the eect on network throughput is then tested using a well known and respected network simulation tool, along with a number of analysis tools developed speci�cally for the data generated here. The simulator's operation is �rst validated against recognised test outputs, before a comprehensive set of control data is established, and then the proposal is tested and and compared against the controls. This detailed analysis of the various simulations should be of bene�t to other researchers who need to validate simulation results. The analysis of these tests indicate areas of immediate improvement and so the protocols are adjusted and a further series of experiments conducted. These �nal results are again analysed in detail and �nal appraisals provided.

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ID Code: 37638
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Looi, Mark & Clark, Andrew
Keywords: 802.11, IEEE 802.11, 802.11i, 802.11w, wireless, wireless LAN, WLAN, wireless networks, network security, information security, data security, privacy, Wired Equivalent Privacy, WEP, Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, WECA, Wireless Fidelity Alliance, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Protected Access, WPA, WPA2, Temporal Key Integrity Protocol, TKIP, CCMP, transition security network, TSN, robust security network, RSN, robust security network association, RSNA, data link, link layer, MPDU, PSDU, address encryption, pervasive, ubiquitous
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Past > Institutes > Information Security Institute
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 Sep 2010 01:35
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 20:00

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