5

Anecdotally, I've noticed that many people's WiFi passwords (based on visiting their homes, etc.) don't seem terribly secure; they're usually fairly short and don't always contains numbers or special characters. Based on my knowledge of many of these people's general cybersecurity practices, I would guess that most of their other passwords are much more secure than their WiFi passwords.

Is this just the result of sloppy security practices? Or is there some reason why strong passwords are less important for WiFi routers than for (e.g.) site logins?

2
  • I see answers here tend to focus on "attackers could gain access to your network and launch attacks", which is only one of the concerns. Another is about how easy it would be for somebody with wifi access to snoop on other traffic on the same wifi network, thus at least seeing all of your unencrypted data.
    – Adam Katz
    Sep 6, 2023 at 17:35
  • one factor is, does your AP support isolation mode.
    – cybernard
    Sep 27, 2023 at 16:05

4 Answers 4

2

In many cases, the security of WiFi passwords does tend to be overlooked. Often people prioritize stronger passwords for their online accounts over their WiFi networks. There are some reasons behind this.

The Lazy Factor: Default WiFi Passwords and convenience of remembering an easy password, thinking they are unimportant

Many people are too lazy to change the default passwords on their WiFi routers. Default passwords are often simple to guess or even publicly known.

Another reason why WiFi passwords may be less secure is the convenience factor. People often prefer easy-to-remember passwords for their WiFi networks because they don't want to go through the hassle of constantly entering a complex password on all their devices. This convenience can lead to the use of simpler and less secure passwords.

Also most people think, its very unlikely to be hacked, since an attacker needs to be in range in order to capture a handshake and to connect to the access point (AP).

Why attackers want your WiFi access? The underestimated risk

Although many owners think, they are not interesting or important enough in order to be hacked. This is not the case, with access to your WiFi, an attacker gains a free, unrestricted AP without logs to engage in illegal activities like downloading copyrighted content, distributing malware, or conducting cybercrimes. Also access to your AP makes it easier to intercept your internet traffic, potentially compromising your online privacy and capturing sensitive information, or even exploit vulnerabilities within your network, potentially compromising other connected devices or the network infrastructure itself, providing them lots of other possibilities.

Cracking WiFi password - Easier than assumed

WiFi passwords are actually much easier to crack compared to online passwords. Attackers can capture a handshake and then crack the WiFi password offline, without needing to stay within range of the network. In contrast, online passwords are typically attacked from anywhere, the risk of your account being compromised is significantly mitigated by the heightened competition among potential targets and they are also often better protected.

Conclusion

WiFi passwords are often less complex due to easily guessable default passwords and the convenience of easy-to-remember passwords. Also many people believe it is unlikely being hacked due to low WiFi range, and assume their AP does not provide a high value for an attacker.

0

Typically a home router/access point will not support guest access, so the easiest way to add guests is to share the password. This makes network security inherently weak as it is vulnerable to being leaked.

This defeats the object of a "strong" password, since it isn't very secret.

Given these limitations a "weak" password is less likely to be written down and less of an obstacle to changing it given that a changed password needs to be entered into multiple devices that may have inconvenient UIs

0

With Wifi passwords, as with all passwords, usability is often opposed to security. A strong password can be hard to remember and error-prone when you type it. But you can easily remember a weak password. And even connect more easily if there is no password.

Wifi range and population density are also important factors. The more area covered, the more your wireless network is in a dense tech-savvy population, the higher is the probability of an attack by a curious hacker.

Depending on the organization type, malicious access to a network can enable attackers to eavesdrop more easily on other types of traffic on it, and may want to spy and or compromise other connected endpoints or servers. Especially those are not accessible from outside the network.

Corporate users, when they do consider wifi security , tend to put in place a middle ground by offering one password per user policy. Strength of passwords may vary within corporations, but security staff do study the question at some point.

Home users most of the time don't care too much about security but prefer passwords that are easier to remember (that can be more vulnerable to brute force or dictionary attacks) from a security perspective. Always change the default password, but often people don't want to remember it, they do instead:

  • set no mandatory password
  • change the password for a weaker one
  • or turn it off and use WPS instead if available, which has its own security problem.
  • many home routers have their default password written on a sticker. If they choose to go with it, an attacker has an extra attack surface because they can use spying and physical access to get it. Attackers may infer some default passwords from pther items, such as default SSIDs. Depending on your ISP, the default password strength may vary.
-1

I would say, WiFi passwords are more important than online passwords... most accounts (if compromised) only have a limited scope in what they can do with it. (exceptions are things like bank accounts, email accounts, etc.)

As for WiFi WPA(2/3) passwords, most people are simply not aware how the system works, or what is more or less secure with it.

For that reason:

  • The strength / complexity of the WiFi exchange, is mainly a factor of the strength of the session key used.
  • The session key is derived from the "WiFi password", where the amount of bits (characters) directly influences how easy it is to guess the session key and its source (the WiFi password).
  • the length of the password (from 0-63 characters) is therefore the factor that dictates how secure your WiFi connection is, a compromised WiFi network opens you up to all sorts of malicious use and to getting attacked yourself for a number of MiTM and other types of attacks.

For this reason I generally use a random string of 63 length as a login for the WiFi network, and I use a QR code for anyone that needs to login to the network. As is described in on this website.

In conclusion, most people underestimate the importance of the WiFi Password for there network security and there isn't much in the form of good resources available for them to make better choices.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .