Wired Equivalent Privacy WEP

Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it. —Niels Bohr

In wireless networks, the word "broadcast" takes on an entirely new meaning. Security concerns have haunted 802.11 deployments since the standardization effort began. IEEE's attempt to address snooping concerns culminated in the optional Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) standard, which is found in clause 8.2 of 802.11. WEP can be used by stations to protect data as it traverses the wireless medium, but it provides no protection past the access point.

Many of the headlines about 802.11 over the past year were due to WEP. As networks become important to doing business, security has become an increasingly prominent worry. WEP was initially marketed as the security solution for wireless LANs, though its design was so flawed as to make that impossible.

WEP is so flawed that it is not worth using in many cases. Some of the flaws are severe design flaws, and the complete break of WEP in late 2001 was caused by a latent problem with the cryptographic cipher used by WEP. To understand WEP and its implications for the security of your network, this chapter presents some background on WEP's cryptographic heritage, lists the design flaws, and discusses the final straw. It closes with recommendations on the use of WEP. To make a long chapter much shorter, the basic recommendation is to think very, very carefully before relying on WEP because it has been soundly defeated.

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