Cisco is aware of a major security vulnerability allowing hackers to hijack its routers, among countless other networking devices, the company said Wednesday. The disclosure of the so-called “Kr00k” vulnerability – made at the 2020 edition of the RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco – is already shaping into a highly concerning cybersecurity story. It appears the critical vulnerability is targeting some fundamental component of contemporary chip design, seeing how it affects silicon from both Broadcom and Cypress. For added context, that would be the two most popular manufacturers of Wi-Fi chipsets on the planet.

Countless devices at risk

Researchers from Slovak cybersecurity firm ESET estimate the exploit is affecting at least a billion devices worldwide, and likely more in reality. Being Broadcom’s biggest buyer of Wi-Fi modules, Cisco is understandably not too thrilled with the recently made discovery. The San Jose-based industry giant is hence currently in an all-hands-on-deck mode as it tries to identify the true scope of the vulnerability.

While details on the matter are still slim, it seems Kr00k is so effective because it targets an unavoidable phenomenon in Wi-Fi connectivity called “signal disassociation”. In layman’s terms this is what happens when a router or client automatically attempts to re-establish a connection due to low signal. While the Wi-Fi packets sent by devices in this state are still encrypted, the way Kr00k works is that it prolongs their disassociated status by a significant margin. Meanwhile, it collects the packets intended for the previously authorized router and continues to do so until it gathers enough data to attempt decrypting them.

All of that is possible because Cypress and Broadcom chips targeted by Kr00k reset data packets to an all-zero value during disassociation, providing the attacker with another known factor which can be abused to aid in reverse-engineering the otherwise purportedly secure router-client connection. While Cisco assures us it’s only a matter of time before Kr00k is patched out in its entirety, the sheer scope of the vulnerability is yet another remainder of how fragile the cybersecurity space truly is.

Source: BSN’s Tech News Section


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