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    Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

    This is a discussion on Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware within the Sky Broadband help forums, part of the Sky Broadband help and support category; Hi - brief summary of how i got here: wife has work supplied router (DG834GT) and company laptop with locked ...

    1. #1
      C0untd0wn's Avatar
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      Unhappy Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      Hi - brief summary of how i got here:
      wife has work supplied router (DG834GT) and company laptop with locked down user, and locked down router. Was told that even though i have 20+ years IT dev / support / design / architecture experience, that (for security reasons) i have to give them our router and all laptops so they can enter the wireless WPA PSK keys and lock the router down. Are they 'avin a laugh?

      Anyway, a full router reset sorted half the problem, and a nice BART PE based util enabled me to get admin access to the laptop, which i then ran a util on to get me the WPA PSK into a text file - it only gave me the 64digit hex key, rather than the ASCII one also. I think this is becase it looks like it is using extended ASCII characters, which i guess might be displayed differently depending on what font / code page you have selected.

      I was able to enter this key onto my works laptop to gain wireless access to MY OWN BROADBAND! so i know the key is legit. Even worked a treat on the kids Wii.

      However, the netgear (sky dg934gt and the netgear 834gt) router WONT allow me to enter the hex key - just an ascii (8 ~ 63 not 64) key.

      Is it possible to convert the hex key, OR to amend the firmware to allow a hex key to be entered?

      I've spoken to Netgear, and i have to say i was not impressed ("can i enter a WPA PSK key in HEX format?" - please follow these suggested solutions to your problem and contact us again if this doesn't help. Yes, this is the THIRD time i'm emailing to tell you the standard help text doesn't help me)

      Finally, before anyone answers (hopefully):

      1. I need to use the official (secret!) WPA PSK key for my wife's company laptop as she has had to sign an agreement that she uses this and wont change any settings to ensure full strength security. I HAVE used an alternative (my random choise) same strength key in the mean time, but this needs to be changed to the official one before she gets into trouble.

      2. I've tried a number of HEX to ASCII converter utilities to get the ascii equivalent, and also used MS EXCEL to manually do this in a spreadsheet, and since these are mostly extended ascii chars, i've used the old "hold down the ALT key, and type in the three digit ascii code on the numeric keypad to enter any ascii code" option to try entering the key.

      3. I know there is a way to enter the key, as the router was configured with this key and we've been using it successfully, and the extracted key i got works with my laptop and a Wii - although we were able to enter the hex key rather than ascii

      I've heard that different manufacturers have different views on how the key is generated (from a pass phrase i guess they mean) but since this is pure hex (or ascii) then i dont understand why it's a problem...


      all help appreciated. I'll try to return the favour if i can...



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    3. #2
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      Re: Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      WEP was a bit funny about how textual passwords were translated into binary encryption keys, but the WPA specs are much more precise about it. The binary key (usually represented as a long hex number) is the result of a hashing algorithm applied to the network SSID and the passphrase. It's not simply the characters of the passphrase in hex.

      Sadly, that's bad news for you because hashing functions are one way. You can create the binary key from the SSID and passphrase, but you can't recreate the passphrase from the binary key and the SSID. It's not mathematically impossible. So if the equipment you want to use only allows you to enter a textual passphrase, you simply won't be able to use it.

    4. #3
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      Re: Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      hmmm... surely if you can enter EITHER a hex or ascii key, then ...
      :-(
      i guess the ideal solution is to get a firmware version that allows me to enter the hex key. Is it me or is Netgear a bit inflexible in only allowing people to enter ASCII keys?
      i know the SSID but i guess what you are saying is that to get an ascii key, i'd need to know the SSID and the orginal ascii key, which would generate the hex key?

      i would have thought that a hex or ascii key - since both are acceptible on some equipment should correlate in some way, rather than need to be converted, otherwise entering a hex key would need extra info also in order to generate the 'final' key?

      not sure if that makes sense, but if it does... please explain it to me cos i've confused myself now!

    5. #4
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      Re: Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      With WPA, all the data is encrypted using a 64 digit (256 bit) hex key. That hex key is normally calculated by taking the textual passphrase (the pre-shared key) and the network SSID and passing those through a one-way hashing function. Some pieces of networking equipment will allow you to enter the hex key directly, bypassing the hashing function. Other pieces of networking equipment do not let you do this, and the Sky Router is one such example.

      The difficulty is that hashing functions only work one way. An example of a very simple hashing function would be to simply add up the ASCII code for each character in a password. Say your password is "password". Add up the ASCII codes and you get 883. But if you take the value 883 and try to convert it back to the textual password, you can't because there's loads of other words which add up to 883, like "mattress", "opponent", "positive".

      Now the hashing function which WPA uses is a lot more complicated than that. There is simply no way that you can take the hex key (which is the output of the hashing function) and work out the password that was used as one of the inputs of the hashing function. So if the Sky router won't let you "inject" the hex key directly into it (which it won't) you simply will not be able to use it.

    6. #5
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      Re: Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      You obviously know more about this sort of thing than I do, but is it not possible for you to use a USB adapter on the Laptop and configure it with your own settings. If you have already hacked the Admin, it should not be difficult to set it up.

      TomD


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      Useful Utilites

      http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/wifi_information_view.html/ TCPOptimiser /Test Socket

      Note - When downloading always select the Custom install or you will end up with stuff you don't want.





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      Re: Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      Yeah, but the OP said: "1. I need to use the official (secret!) WPA PSK key for my wife's company laptop as she has had to sign an agreement that she uses this and wont change any settings to ensure full strength security."

      The guy's in a bit of a bind here. In effect his wife has to use her company-supplied router, but he can't put his Sky connection username and password into that, because they can't be extracted from the Sky V2 router that he's got. And he can't use the Sky V2 router because his wife's company won't tell her what the pre-shared key is. He can extract the WPA binary key in hex format from his wife's laptop, but the Sky router won't accept a binary key, only a textual key, and there's no way to convert a binary key back into a textual key because it's a one-way mapping.

      It must be very… frustrating…

    8. #7
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      Re: Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      Yes, I understand now, using another adapter would/may compromise the laptop. I assume the company have supplied a router complete with BB connection and phone line to enable her to access the firm's network. Maybe the only answer is to buy a laptop for purely private use on the Sky BB.

      TomD


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      Useful Utilites

      http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/wifi_information_view.html/ TCPOptimiser /Test Socket

      Note - When downloading always select the Custom install or you will end up with stuff you don't want.





    9. #8
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      Re: Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      I'm guessing that the company in question just assumes that any reasonable broadband ISP would give their customer a connection username and password that they can then program into the company-supplied router.

      There might be a way around this if the two routers were connected together using Ethernet, but that all depends on just how "locked-down" the company router or the company laptop is. You'd either have to disable the DHCP server on the company router or set the IP parameters on the laptop manually (i.e., stop it from using DHCP).

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      Re: Problems with entering WPA-PSK keys on diff hardware

      Frankly, if your wife's work need her to connect to the office or do business from home then they should supply a business grade internet connection on a new line to your house. That way they could lock it down and be as disagreeable as they like about security.

      I know I'm being frightfully boring here - but it is against Sky's T&C's to use it for business purposes, and your wife's work are being extremely unhelpful.
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