Symantec: Google Glass still vulnerable to Wi-Fi attack

Glass can fall prey to a long-known issue in wireless networking

Google fixed one Wi-Fi security problem with its wearable computer Glass, but Symantec says there's another problem, which has been a long-known weakness in wireless networking.

The security vendor has been analyzing Google Glass in its labs and found a second issue that is just as harmful as the now-patched QR-code vulnerability found by Lookout Mobile Security, which was made public earlier this week.

Many Wi-Fi devices regularly look for networks that they have been connected to before, wrote Candid Wueest, a threat researcher for Symantec. The behavior is convenient for users, since they don't have to manually connect to a known network, he wrote.

But for as little as US$100, a hacker can buy a device that impersonates the known Wi-Fi network by borrowing the network's name, known as its SSID (Service Set Identifier).

If a mobile device such as Google Glass looks for a known network with the SSID of "myPrivateWiFi," a device called the Wi-Fi Pineapple can respond, pretending it is the network.

Wi-Fi Pineapple is intended as a tool for security researchers. It sits between a targeted device and the Internet. Once it has tricked a Wi-Fi device into thinking it is the legitimate network, it can then spy on the data traffic.

If the traffic between a pair of Google Glasses and a remote server is unencrypted, an attacker using Wi-Fi Pineapple can view it, a major privacy and security problem known as a man-in-the-middle attack (MITM).

The issue isn't exclusive to Google Glass and could affect any device used, for example, by someone in a coffee shop. Savvy laptop and mobile phone users may be able to take steps to prevent data from leaking by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). But the keyboard-less interface of Google Glass could make thwarting this style of attack more complicated.

In early June, Google fixed the vulnerability found by Lookout, which found that Glass would scan a QR Code instructing it to connect to a malicious Wi-Fi access point. Lookout, which told Google of the problem in May, then directed Glass to a malicious website that ran a known Android 4.04 vulnerability, which gave the security vendor complete control over the glasses.

Google issued several fixes, including one that required users to approve instructions contained in QR codes.

The fundamental problem of Wi-Fi devices looking for known networks isn't an easy one to solve, Wueest wrote. Devices could check a hardware identifier, called the MAC (Media Access Control) address, of a Wi-Fi router and match it with the SSID. But MAC addresses are easily faked, he wrote.

"The more practicable solution is to treat every network as hostile and ensure that all the applications use encrypted communications like SSL [Secure Sockets Layers] or tunnel through a VPN," Wueest wrote.

Google couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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Jeremy Kirk

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