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Understanding Wireless Penetration Testing for Businesses


Wireless technologies provide access and convenience that is difficult to match with traditional wired networks. The capability to work remotely by wirelessly accessing networks and systems holds an immense value proposition, especially in the post-pandemic world. However, 'wireless' is not synonymous with security. This is where regular wireless penetration testing (or wireless pen testing) can help businesses identify the vulnerabilities in their wireless networks before malicious actors can take advantage of them.

What is Wireless Penetration Testing?

Wireless penetration testing is a series of procedures carried out by certified penetration testing professionals to identify potential vulnerabilities in wireless networks that can be exploited by malicious actors. It involves comprehensively examining wireless networks and components connected over the network, including laptops, mobile phones, and IoT devices. 

How do Wireless Network Attacks Happen?

Wireless network attacks are not uncommon. Often, the vulnerabilities within a wireless network or its components allow attackers to exploit them. For example, a severe WiFi router vulnerability was disclosed in January 2022 that affected TP-Link, Netgear, and D-Link modems. 

Attackers don't even need to be physically on office premises to gain access or carry out exploits. Performing something as simple as wardriving—searching for WiFi wireless networks from a moving vehicle with the help of freely available, purpose-built software—can expose several wireless networks to an experienced hacker. Once the target network is identified, they look for vulnerabilities such as default SSID names and passwords, misconfigured firewalls, and compromised routers to set up rogue access points. They may even gain unauthorized network access through unsuspecting, untrained employees. Some of the common methods an attacker can use to hack into a wireless network are:

  • Bypassing WLAN authentication

  • Cracking WLAN encryption

  • Attacking the WLAN infrastructure

  • Attacking via social engineering

The attackers would then be in a position to launch multiple types of attacks such as the Man in the Middle attack, Distributed denial of services, and session hijacking. They could even steal data or propagate ransomware across the endpoints in the compromised wireless network.

Why Should Businesses Conduct Wireless Penetration Testing?

Wireless systems are vulnerable and much easier to hack than a wired local network. The means for exploiting vulnerabilities are literally ‘floating in the air,' and attackers only need the right tools and devices.

In addition to preventing potential network attacks, there are several other advantages of doing wireless pen testing.

  • Businesses can stay updated on their network’s vulnerabilities against the backdrop of evolving threats 

  • Businesses can take necessary measures to seal their WiFi signals from wardriving attempts

  • Regular pen testing allows businesses to identify employees who may need more training or education in creating stronger passwords or identifying phishing emails

  • Wireless penetration testing can help identify and replace weak and insecure applications from a wireless connectivity standpoint

  • Businesses can identify faulty and vulnerable points within the networks that could be any endpoint device, routers, local servers, or a network device.

How Does Wireless Penetration Testing Work?

A wireless penetration tester thinks like a threat actor but doesn't act like one. Since the tester needs to be in the WiFi signal range to access and penetrate the network, wireless pen testing is usually done at the office premises itself or by a wardriving simulation. The following are some of the elements involved in wireless pen testing.

  • Scoping:

    The pen testing team defines the scope of a potential attack and the target scenarios.

  • Reconnaissance:

    The testing team gathers detailed information regarding the networks and its components (the target). This includes information about traffic, connectivity protocols, authentication, and network architecture.

  • Vulnerability Analysis:

    The team identifies attack vectors through a detailed analysis of the network and, in the process, finds any flaws that could be exploited.

  • Exploitation:

    The testing team then attempts to exploit the vulnerabilities to gain an initial foothold, followed by lateral movement to increase their privileges in the network and access information and credentials.

  • Data Analysis & Reporting:

    While attackers steal the information or launch severe cyberattacks, the testing team prepares a detailed report on the vulnerabilities and the potential risks.

Final Thoughts

Businesses tend to overlook the security of their wireless networks. Poor wireless network security configuration could very well be a point in the attack vector that threat actors can leverage for gaining unauthorized network access. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial for companies, especially small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs), to employ wireless penetration testing to improve their wireless security stance.  

Although attacking SMBs might not be as rewarding as attacking large enterprises, threat actors achieve a higher success rate when targeting SMBs. As such, attacks on SMBs have been rising exponentially. A strategic cybersecurity move is to seek out the services of security testing experts who can identify the vulnerabilities in your networks and provide solutions.

Packetlabs is a Canadian penetration testing company with advanced capabilities that go beyond industry standards. Contact the team for a quote today!