Review: BackTrack 5 Wireless Penetration Testing

Vivek Ramachandran. Published by Packt Publishing (ISBN: 978-1-849515-58-0). Price: $49.99, 208pgs, paperback.

It says something for the ubiquitious nature of wifi that this subject warrants a book to itself. Wireless networks are everywhere – some would argue they’re in too many places. And as we discuss in the article on pg.14 of this issue, the technologies that are supposed to secure wireless networks are proving not to be up to the task. Of course, that very insecurity is what makes this book possible.

It also says something about the popularity of BackTrack that it’s Ramachandran’s platform of choice for this subject. This makes a lot of sense: BackTrack effectively provides a standardised reference platform with all the necessary tools either built in or easily available. This saves a lot of time and effort for the author who doesn’t need to go through endless pages of installation procedures.

For wireless pen-testing, you do need one other piece of equipment, and that’s a wifi adapter. Many laptops come with built-in devices, of course, but these are often Broadcom cards that can have issues with things like promiscuous mode. This book is based on an Alfa USB adapter which is cheap, easy to obtain worldwide and highly amenable to the tasks asked of it here. And Ramachandran guides you through setting up a lab network for testing the methods detailed here.

Once it’s got you set up, the book wastes no time in delving into a hands-on session with wireless networking. By page 29 you’re already sniffing packets. And that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the book. The pace is fast and the emphasis is on actually doing it. You’re soon cracking WEP and WPA passwords, becoming an evil twin with MAC spoofing, setting up rogue access points and conducting man in the middle attacks. The book doesn’t just go for the easy scores, either: there’s a chapter on attacking WPA-Enterprise and Radius-based systems. All the way through there are lots of screengrabs, so you can see what should be happening on your screen.

This is an excellent tutorial in the current state of the art when it comes to hacking – or testing – wireless networks.

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