Almost a third of the world's encrypted Web connections can be cracked using an exploit that's growing increasingly practical, computer scientists warned Wednesday. They said the attack technique on a cryptographic cipher known as RC4 can also be used to break into wireless networks protected by the Wi-Fi Protected Access Temporal Key Integrity Protocol.
Researchers have long known statistical biases in RC4 make it possible for attackers to predict some of the pseudo-random bytes the cipher uses to encode messages. In 2013, a team of scientists devised an attack exploiting the weakness that required about 2,000 hours to correctly guess the characters contained in a typical authentication cookie. Using refinements, a separate team of researchers is now able to carry out the same feat in about 75 hours with a 94 percent accuracy. A similar attack against WPA-TKIP networks takes about an hour to succeed. The researchers said the only reliable countermeasure is to stop using RC4 altogether.