Lifehacker wrote a guide for cracking a WiFi network’s WEP password using BackTrack. BackTrack is a Linux live CD used for security testing and comes with the tools needed to break WEP. Not just any wireless card will work for this; you need one that supports packet injection. The crack works by collecting legitimate packets then replaying them several times in order to generate data. They point out that this method can be hit-or-miss, especially if there are few other users on the network, as the crack requires authenticated packets. We covered cracking WEP before, but using BackTrack should smooth out compatibility issues.
[Martin Beck] and [Erik Tews] have just released a paper covering an improved attack against WEP and a brand new attack against WPA(PDF). For the WEP half, they offer a nice overview of attacks up to this point and the optimizations they made to reduce the number of packets needed to approximately 25K. The only serious threat to WPA so far has been the coWPAtty dictionary attack. This new attack lets you decrypt the last 12 bytes of a WPA packet’s plaintext and then generate arbitrary packets to send to the client. While it doesn’t recover the WPA key, the attacker is still able to send packets directly to the machine they’re attacking and could potentially read back the response via an outbound connection to the internet.