August 2010

Webinar Series Concludes with CCX Announcement

Summit Launches Two 802.11n ExpressCards

TKIP Deemed Insufficient for PCI DSS

Software Innovation Opens DFS Channels

Summit Makes Splash in Healthcare Market

TKIP Deemed Insufficient for PCI DSS

Temporal key integrity protocol (TKIP), the encryption method once required on all Wi-Fi devices, soon will be prohibited. A Summit white paper explains the implications for retailers that rely heavily on Wi-Fi and must be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

“Retailers have relied on wireless local area networks since before the first Wi-Fi standards were ratified,” said Chris Bolinger, Summit VP of Business Development and the paper’s primary author. “TKIP is a key element of Wi-Fi security in many retail stores and distribution centers, but TKIP is not strong enough to satisfy PCI DSS requirements.”

When the original Wi-Fi encryption mechanism of WEP was found to be vulnerable to attack, the Wi-Fi Alliance created a security specification called Wi-Fi Protected Access, with Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) as its encryption method. Like WEP, TKIP uses RC4 encryption, but TKIP is designed to address vulnerabilities of WEP by encrypting each data packet with a different key, preventing key reuse during a session, and ensuring that the message is not altered in transit between sender and receiver.

In late 2008, two German researchers reported that a vulnerability in TKIP could enable an attacker to decrypt individual packets that are encrypted with TKIP. In mid-2009, two Japanese researchers reported that they had expanded on the German researchers’ work and devised a way to mount a successful attack on TKIP. The latter report received a lot of media attention, with some articles claiming that TKIP can be cracked in less than one minute. In reality, neither of the reports demonstrated that a practical tool for cracking an actual TKIP key or deciphering TKIP-encrypted data packets is imminent.

The two reports, however, were enough to sound the death toll for TKIP. The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced that it is phasing out TKIP, first on infrastructure devices and then on client devices. Beginning January 1, 2011, TKIP will be prohibited in Wi-Fi infrastructure except as a component of WPA2, the successor to WPA. In a few years, TKIP will be prohibited in any Wi-Fi CERTIFIED device.

“Retailers often use Wi-Fi client devices for a decade or longer,” said Bolinger. “Devices manufactured before 2006 may not support WPA2. The Enterprise version of WPA2, with its robust, bidirectional authentication and strong encryption using AES-CCMP, now is a PCI DSS requirement for all wireless LANs and client devices that have access to credit card and debit card information. To protect themselves and their customers, retailers must move to WPA2-Enterprise.”

The Summit white paper, “Wi-Fi Client Device Security and Compliance with PCI DSS”, is available on the Summit white papers page.