Researchers Suggest New Way to Measure Wi-Fi Attacks

Researchers at North Carolina State University said they have found a way to quantify the effect of malicious attacks on wireless networks. If scientist can measure the impact and the potential disruption, they may be able to develop new security technologies.

"This information can be used to help us design more effective security systems, because it tells us which attacks – and which circumstances – are most harmful to Wi-Fi systems," said Wenye Wang, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research.

Wang stated that her team looked at two generic Wi-Fi attack models, one of them being a persistent attacks and the other one being an intermittent attack that blocks access on a periodic basis. The goal was to compare how these attacks perform in different scenarios, including different numbers of users. the result was a metric called "order gain", which compares the probability of an attacker having access to the Wi-Fi network to the probability of a legitimate user having access to the network: "If an attacker has an 80% chance of accessing the network, and other users have the other 20%, the order gain would be 4 – because the attackers odds of having access are 4 to 1."

"If we want to design effective countermeasures," Wang says, "we have to target the attacks that can cause the most disruption. It's impossible to prevent every conceivable attack." He suggested focusing on persistent attacks that target networks with large numbers of users – "because that scenario has the largest order gain."