WASHINGTON, D.C.--Researchers have developed a new way to protect wireless computer networks against attacks by thieves and charlatans. The protocol made its premier this weekend at the annual AAAS meeting.
Wireless communication isn't just in the neighborhood coffee shop. The military uses wireless sensor networks to keep track of soldiers in the field, and civilians utilize it for everything from bank transactions to cell phone communication. But the security of this new technology is not guaranteed: Cyber-attackers can infiltrate these networks, impersonating banks or other entities to gain private information.
To address the problem, computer scientists Markus Jakobsson and Steve Myers of Indiana University created a program that would add additional password controls between user and host. This so-called "magic letter" would help ensure that the user is indeed communicating with a legitimate party rather than an imitator. The researchers then used a mathematical model to test the efficacy of their program against a simulated attack. Jakobsson says that while there are no known reports of these attacks, the new security technology is desperately needed. "The fact that I could create such an attack means that someone else can do it and probably will," he says.