Uncovering the Hidden Dangers Of Rogue Access Points
By Tom Seest
At BestCybersecurityNews, we help entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, young learners, and seniors learn more about cybersecurity.
Rogue access points (also referred to as evil twins) are wireless devices installed into a network without prior approval from security and which mimic the appearance of legitimate access points but send stronger signals. Attackers can exploit such devices to spy on end users or gain entry to an organization’s network.
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Rogue access points refer to any wireless network connection not authorized by an organization’s security staff, such as an unapproved router plugged into an existing firewall or switch, home-made access point plugged into an unused wall network connector (like at someone’s personal desk), or mobile device attached via USB that create wireless network connection without approval from security devices such as firewalls and switches – effectively opening up private networks to attack.
Unauthorized wireless connections can be exploited by cyber adversaries to execute attacks such as denial of service, malware distribution and data theft. Furthermore, these unsecured wireless links can allow an attacker to circumvent company VPN connections, providing him with unfettered access to its corporate network.
Rogue access points can usually be easily identified by professional network administrators; however, casual PC users often struggle to spot them. Their similarity to legitimate access points makes it easy for employees to connect without realizing they are circumventing corporate security procedures put into place by IT.
Organizations that store sensitive information, like credit card numbers and customer records, face an ever-present risk from rogue access points. Therefore, companies should implement routine scanning of potential access points using either wireless scanners or IDS/IPS solutions – either way, they must be addressed quickly in order to reduce the risks of an attack.
One approach is to encourage staff members to report any unauthorized access points they discover, such as by setting up an amnesty program in which anyone who finds an AP should immediately report it – this period should last at least 30 days and include training on cybersecurity etiquette as well as your organization’s unauthorized AP policy.
One way of detecting an unauthorized access point (AP) is through wireless scanning tools such as NetStumbler. Using these tools to scan for unwelcome APs and their signal strength levels allows one to determine where an unapproved AP could potentially exist nearby.
Rogue access points present serious security threats for any organization, allowing hackers to monitor all your activity online, as well as download malware directly onto computers or networks. This can wreak havoc on business operations if hackers exploit rogue APs to gain sensitive data or gain entry to company finances.
Rogue wireless access points can have a serious negative impact on your bandwidth, leading to exponentially higher bills from internet service providers and significantly hindering the productivity of employees, ultimately leading to reduced revenues for your company.
Rogue access points often aren’t located within your physical network but can still be detected using wireless scanning tools or IDS/IPS. By measuring signal strength, it becomes possible to pinpoint their location; typically, the stronger it is, the closer you are to finding one.
There can be any number of reasons for an individual to install an unapproved access point at their workplace, from employees bringing their own router into an unused network connection in order to create their own hotspot to testing an internal wireless app project for the company and needing access points on it. Unfortunately, none of this is coordinated by IT and poses a considerable security risk.
There is also the risk that hackers could physically access a building and set up an illegal wireless access point to obtain data from it, known as an evil twin attack. Companies need to prepare for this type of threat in order to safeguard themselves properly.
As part of your efforts to avoid the risk associated with an unauthorized access point, regular wireless scans should be performed regularly to detect any unwelcome devices early and warn of potential threats. It is also crucial that staff members receive proper cybersecurity education.
Rogue access points provide attackers with a way into your network without using firewalls and other security devices, leaving it open to attack from outside or even within. There are various strategies available to combat rogue access points – from informing employees of their risks when creating unauthorized devices to adding safeguards in network environments.
Step one in stopping an illegal access point is locating it. A wireless scanning tool is an effective way of doing this, typically detecting signal strength as close to its source increases, plus providing details on any associated wireless access points that might connect back with it.
Many rogue access points are installed by employees within an organization – whether unwittingly or intentionally. An employee could purchase and install an access point at an office supply store to enable wireless printing or internet access on a laptop in a conference room. Or they might plug a wireless USB device into an authorized laptop for testing purposes to connect directly to the corporate network.
Once an unauthorized access point has been identified, a containment policy must be developed and enforced accordingly. Depending on the severity and risks involved, containment methods could include sending broadcast reauthenticate packets to all stations connected to it or selectively disabling access points using its MAC address – though using this latter approach must be used carefully as it could impact legitimate wireless clients as well.
Once rogue access points have been identified and contained, organizations should implement additional security measures to thwart future attacks. This could involve creating more stringent access requirements for new devices or requiring employees to sign a privacy statement before accessing company networks. Furthermore, employees should be educated on the risks posed by unsecured devices as well as cyber etiquette practices.
Rogue access points can be located by conducting a wireless airspace scan with tools like a sniffer or IDS/IPS, but this process can often be laborious in large facilities with widespread wireless airspace coverage. Visual inspection of network devices like firewalls and switches may help reveal any unwelcome guest access points that have gained entry; however, wired infrastructure connections could make detection harder than desired.
Employees sometimes set up unapproved access points without consulting with or permission from their company’s network manager, often as a convenience to connectivity. For instance, employees could purchase their own router at an office supply store and connect it to the network in order to print from a room or use mobile Internet on a device connected via WiFi.
Cyber attackers may employ rogue access points to gain unauthorized entry to a business’s critical systems and steal authentication credentials from employees, creating what’s known as “Wi-Fi Pineapple” attacks against it.
Healthcare organizations are particularly susceptible to malicious access points. With their focus on patient care, healthcare system staff often lack the time or the inclination to practice good cyber hygiene practices. For instance, hospital employees connecting their own laptops to corporate Wi-Fi for email access could unwittingly connect it to an unsecured Wi-Fi created by cybercriminals to redirect users to fraudulent websites harvesting login details or downloading malware onto their computers.
Engage with your staff on cybersecurity and the importance of adhering to the organization’s rogue access point policy. Implement policies requiring compliance with effective security practices and coordination with IT before installing an access point. Create a time-boxed amnesty program encouraging employees to report any unauthorized access points they discover – this should not be used as an opportunity to make them feel incompetent but instead, serve as proof of your dedication towards building a secure workplace environment.
Please share this post with your friends, family, or business associates who may encounter cybersecurity attacks.