A serious security flaw has been uncovered in certain models of wireless broadband routers supplied to up to 250,000 of Eircom's residential and business customers.
The flaw allows the security encryption of an Eircom wireless network to be bypassed by outsiders, who can then "piggyback" on a customer's internet connection. In some cases, any files or data shared on the user's wireless network can also be accessed.
The Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) security protocol used by the Eircom-supplied Netopia 3300 and 2247 series routers requires a 16-digit network key to access the network, which is generated from the serial number of the router as well as some text which is converted to numerical values.
However, the eight-digit number used to identify each user's wireless network is also derived from the serial number. This identifier can be seen by anyone with a wireless-enabled computer in a radius of about 30 metres.
This particular security flaw aside, WEP itself has been criticised as being too vulnerable to attack from hackers. Conor Flynn, technical director of IT security firm RITS told ENN: "WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) is the only protocol that should be considered by any service provider. WEP is a predictable and easily-broken protocol. There are software tools online that will crack any WEP key in the space of two minutes."
Eircom's director of communications Paul Bradley defended the protocol, however, saying "WEP is an industry standard protocol used by telecoms providers around the world."
He went on to tell ENN that Eircom was working with its modem suppliers to offer more advanced security protocols, such as WPA2 and WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup). "We're looking at ways to offer these protocols to new customers and allow existing customers to retrofit them as well," he said.
A statement from Eircom confirmed that it was currently testing WPS-enabled devices with a view to offering them to customers sometime next year.
The current problem was first brought to light by a user of the Irish discussion forum boards.ie and soon after it was exposed programs began appearing online that automatically generated the network key when the network name was keyed in.
As of Tuesday morning, Eircom was offering instructions to customers on how to change their default WEP key via its website broadbandsupport.eircom.net. The company said it would also be contacting affected customers directly.
© 2007 ENN