Security Experts:

Wi-Fi Component Flaw Exposes Windows, Linux, OS X Systems

Researchers have identified a vulnerability in wpa_supplicant, the popular Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) supplicant for Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, Windows, and various other operating systems.

Developed and maintained by Jouni Malinen and others, wpa_supplicant works on both PCs and embedded systems. The software is designed to run in the background and control the connection.

According to an advisory published on Wednesday by Malinen, the supplicant is plagued by a security bug (CVE-2015-1863) that can lead to unexpected program behavior, exposure of memory contents, denial-of-service (DoS), and possibly even arbitrary code execution.

“A vulnerability was found in how wpa_supplicant uses SSID information parsed from management frames that create or update P2P peer entries (e.g., Probe Response frame or number of P2P Public Action frames),” the expert explained.

Malinen says the flaw affects wpa_supplicant versions 1.0 through 2.4 when the CONFIG_P2P build option is enabled. An attacker can exploit the bug by sending a specially crafted management frame designed to trigger P2P peer entries to be created or updated.

“The vulnerability is easiest to exploit while the device has started an active P2P operation (e.g., has ongoing P2P_FIND or P2P_LISTEN control interface command in progress). However, it may be possible, though significantly more difficult, to trigger this even without any active P2P operation in progress,” Malinen said.

The vulnerability was identified by members of the Alibaba security team, who reported their findings to Google. It’s worth noting that Google’s Android operating system also uses wpa_supplicant.

A patch has been released to address the issue. The fix will also be included in wpa_supplicant 2.5 when it becomes available. The vulnerability can also be mitigated by disabling P2P.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.