FragAttacks Wi-Fi Vulnerabilities Pose Widespread Threat to Individuals, Businesses

Potential damage could include denial of service, information leakage and to some extent exfiltration.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

May 13, 2021

3 Min Read
Malicious hacker at computer with code

FragAttacks, a new set of Wi-Fi vulnerabilities, can be exploited to steal user information or attack devices. And every Wi-Fi is affected by by at least one vulnerability.

That’s according to Malwarebytes Labs, which issued a report on the Wi-Fi vulnerabilities. They are mostly in how Wi-Fi and connected devices handle data packets; specifically, how they handle fragments and frames of data packets.

FragAttacks is short for fragmentation and aggregation attacks. Mathy Vanhoef, a Belgian researcher, discovered the vulnerabilities dating back to 1997. He launched a website providing details.

“Three of the discovered vulnerabilities are design flaws in the Wi-Fi standard and therefore affect most devices,” he writes. “On top of this, several other vulnerabilities were discovered that are caused by widespread programming mistakes in Wi-Fi products. Experiments indicate that every Wi-Fi product is affected by at least one vulnerability and that most products are affected by several vulnerabilities.”

All Types of Wi-Fi Affected

Keatron Evans is principal security researcher at Infosec. He’s been responding to emails from individuals panicking over the Wi-Fi vulnerabilities.


Infosec’s Keatron Evans

“FragAttacks vulnerabilities range from somewhat benign, to what most of us would consider medium-to-severe-level vulnerabilities,” he said. “They affect all types of Wi-Fi because the vulnerabilities exist in the protocols that we use to communicate over Wi-Fi and not any individual device or software. Anyone who uses Wi-Fi devices can be impacted by FragAttacks.”

There should be moderate concern for organizations that use Wi-Fi in the office, and concern about employees using Wi-Fi at home, Evans said.

“Concerns include information leakage with potential for exfiltrating some packets and frames from even protected networks,” he said. “But it’s a long way from opening up devices and networks to something as devastating as remote code execution. It’s possible, but so difficult that we may not see [an] effort in trying to build it out to that level of exploitability.”

Potential damage could include denial of service, information leaks, and to some extent, exfiltration, Evans said.

“Keep in mind, though, most of these vulnerabilities are also known risks of just using wireless in general,” he said.

Definite Danger

There is definitely some danger to businesses and individuals, Evans said.

“Individuals may be more at risk than businesses because individuals are less likely to be using enterprise-level security and controls, and are more likely to be using clear text communications on their wireless networks at home,” he said. “They are also more likely to run unpatched or out-of-date operating systems and software.”

Businesses and individuals need to stay vigilant on all security 101 best practices, Evans said. These include:

  • Keep software and systems patched and up to date. Even if you don’t think you need the updates, apply them anyway. This advice has different implications following the recent SolarWinds incident. But you should still install updates, just with more caution.

  • Only use Wi-Fi internally where it makes business sense. And minimize how often employees use public uncontrolled Wi-Fi such as coffee shops, hotels, airports, etc. These public hotspots are actually the perfect playgrounds to exploit these vulnerabilities.

  • Educate yourself and the workforce on computing securely and using secure Wi-Fi at home.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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