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(Wasn't sure but this question might be better in Network Engineering)

Say I'm at a wireless access point that is password protected and I don't know the password. I do know that the people around me are connected to that access point. How does a router know what devices are and are not connected to the network? What stops me from impersonating one of the devices that is connected to the network and thus use the network access of the access point? Is this solely based on the MAC address of a device? If so, can't this be spoofed with ease?

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You're limited by the fact that data is encrypted. Nowadays the most used encryption algorithm is wpa2/wpa psk that has not critical flaws like the old wpa.

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How does a router know what devices are and are not connected to the network?

There's a handshake, both the client and AP exchange keys. Any packet not encrypted using such keys will be discarded.

What stops me from impersonating one of the devices that is connected to the network and thus use the network access of the access point?

Those keys. They are generated during the handshake, so unless you read the memory of any connected client to read the keys, you will not be able to spoof its address.

  • At what layer is this encryption done ? from the device to the router – Sombrero Chicken Sep 18 '16 at 19:21

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