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Attack of the bandwidth-hogging hackers

Swiss security researchers have unearthed a flaw in wireless LAN systems that might be used by hackers to drastically increase their share of the available bandwidth at the expense of the other users. The issue should be of particular concern to hotspot operators, according to a team from the computer labs at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL). Appropriate standards (such as 802.11i) have been developed to ensure user security and privacy in hotspots, but this does nothing to prevent users altering the MAC protocol of a machine to increase his share of available bandwidth, according to the Swiss team. They explain: “The new generation of wireless adapters allow easy modification of previously inaccessible MAC protocol parameters; for example, with a single line of code hackers can reduce the contention window size, realising a considerable redistribution of throughput shares among station competing for wireless bandwidth. Other cheating techniques include the modification of protocol timers, the misuse of collision-avoidance mechanisms such as the Net Allocation Vector, and selective scrambling of other users frames.” Full Story

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