There are a great number of security risks associated with the current wireless protocols and encryption methods, and in the carelessness and ignorance that exists at the user and corporate IT level. Cracking methods have become much more sophisticated and innovative with wireless. Cracking has also become much easier and more accessible with easy-to-use Windows-based and Linux-based tools being made available on the web at no charge.
Types of unauthorized access to company networks
Unauthorized access to company wireless and wired networks can come from a number of different methods and intents. One of these methods is referred to as "accidental association". When a user turns on a computer and it latches on to a wireless access point from a neighboring company's overlapping network, the user may not even know that this has occurred. However, it is a security breach in that proprietary company information is exposed and now there could exist a link from one company to the other. This is especially true if the laptop is also hooked to a wired network.
"Malicious associations" are when wireless devices can be actively made by crackers to connect to a company network through their cracking laptop instead of a company access point (AP). These types of laptops are known as "soft APs" and are created when a cracker runs some software that makes his/her wireless network card look like a legitimate access point. Once the cracker has gained access, he/she can steal passwords, launch attacks on the wired network, or plant trojans. Since wireless networks operate at the Layer-2 level, Layer-3 protections such as network authentication and virtual private networks (VPNs) offer no barrier. Wireless 802.1x authentications do help with protection but are still vulnerable to cracking. The idea behind this type of attack may not be to break into a VPN or other security measures. Most likely the cracker is just trying to take over the client at the Layer-2 level.
Ad-hoc networks can pose a security threat. Ad-hoc networks are defined as peer-to-peer networks between wireless computers that do not have an access point in between them. While these types of networks usually have little protection, encryption methods can be used to provide security.
Non-traditional networks such as personal network Bluetooth devices are not safe from cracking and should be regarded as a security risk. Even barcode readers, handheld PDAs, and wireless printers and copiers should be secured. These non-traditional networks can be easily overlooked by IT personnel who have narrowly focused on laptops and access points.
Identity theft (MAC spoofing)
Identity theft (or MAC spoofing) occurs when a cracker is able to listen in on network traffic and identify the MAC address of a computer with network privileges. Most wireless systems allow some kind of MAC filtering to only allow authorized computers with specific MAC IDs to gain access and utilize the network. However, a number of programs exist that have network "sniffing" capabilities. Combine these programs with other software that allow a computer to pretend it has any MAC address that the cracker desires, and the cracker can easily get around that hurdle.
A man-in-the-middle attacker entices computers to log into a computer which is set up as a soft AP (Access Point). Once this is done, the hacker connects to a real access point through another wireless card offering a steady flow of traffic through the transparent hacking computer to the real network. The hacker can then sniff the traffic. One type of man-in-the-middle attack relies on security faults in challenge and handshake protocols to execute a "de-authentication attack". This attack forces AP-connected computers to drop their connections and reconnect with the cracker's soft AP. Man-in-the-middle attacks are enhanced by software such as LANjack and AirJack, which automate multiple steps of the process. What once required some skill can now be done by script kiddies. Hotspots are particularly vulnerable to any attack since there is little to no security on these networks.
Denial of service
A Denial-of-Service attack (DoS) occurs when an attacker continually bombards a targeted AP (Access Point) or network with bogus requests, premature successful connection messages, failure messages, and/or other commands. These cause legitimate users to not be able to get on the network and may even cause the network to crash. These attacks rely on the abuse of protocols such as the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP).
 Network injection
In a network injection attack, a cracker can make use of access points that are exposed to non-filtered network traffic, specifically broadcasting network traffic such as "Spanning Tree" (802.1D), OSPF, RIP, and HSRP. The cracker injects bogus networking re-configuration commands that affect routers, switches, and intelligent hubs. A whole network can be brought down in this manner and require rebooting or even reprogramming of all intelligent networking devices.
Caffe Latte attack
The Caffe Latte attack debunks the age old myth that to crack WEP, the attacker needs to be in the RF vicinity of the authorized network, with at least one functional Access Point up and running. Using the Caffe Latte attack trick, it is possible to retrieve the WEP key from an isolated Client using a new technique called "AP-less WEP Cracking". The attack uses various behavioral characteristics of the Windows Wireless stack along with already known flaws in WEP. The attacker exploits the shared key authentication flaw and the message modification flaw in 802.11 WEP, to send a flood of encrypted ARP requests to the isolated Client. The Client replies to these requests with a barrage of encrypted ARP responses. The attacker uses these ARP responses and plug them into the PTW cryptographic attack and recover the WEP key in less than 6 minutes.