A Novel Design and Implementation of DoS-Resistant Authentication and Seamless Handoff Scheme for Enterprise WLANs
Thesis DisciplineComputer Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
With the advance of wireless access technologies, the IEEE 802.11 wireless local area network (WLAN) has gained significant increase in popularity and deployment due to the substantially improved transmission rate and decreased deployment costs. However, this same widespread deployment makes WLANs an attractive target for network attacks. Several vulnerabilities have been identified and reported regarding the security of the current 802.11 standards. To address those security weaknesses, IEEE standard committees proposed the 802.11i amendment to enhance WLAN security. The 802.11i standard has demonstrated the capability of providing satisfactory mutual authentication, better data confidentiality, and key management support, however, the design of 802.11i does not consider network availability. Therefore, it has been suggested that 802.11i is highly susceptible to malicious denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, which exploit the vulnerability of unprotected management frames.
This research first investigates common DoS vulnerabilities in a Robust Security Network (RSN), which is defined in the 802.11i standard, and presents an empirical analysis of such attacks – in particular, flooding-based DoS attacks. To address those DoS issues, this thesis proposes a novel design and implementation of a lightweight stateless authentication scheme that enables wireless access points (APs) to establish a trust relationship with an associating client and derive validating keys that can be used to mutually authenticate subsequent layer-2 (link layer) management frames.
The quality of service provisioning for real-time services over a WLAN requires the total latency of handoff between APs to be small in order to achieve seamless roaming. Thus, this thesis further extends the proposed link-layer authentication into a secure fast handoff solution that addresses DoS vulnerabilities as well as improving the existing 802.11i handoff performance. A location management scheme is also proposed to minimise the number of channels required to scan by the roaming client in order to reduce the scanning delay, which could normally take up 90% of the total handoff latency.
In order to acquire practical data to evaluate the proposed schemes, a prototype network has been implemented as an experimental testbed using open source tools and drivers. This testbed allows practical data to be collected and analysed. The result successfully demonstrated that not only the proposed authentication scheme eradicates most of the DoS vulnerabilities, but also substantially improved the handoff performance to a level suitable for supporting real-time services.