Huawei B153 3G/UMTS router WPS weakness

Authors: Roberto Paleari (@rpaleari) and Alessandro Di Pinto (@adipinto)


Last May we performed a security assessment involving a B153 device, a 3G/UMTS wireless router manufactured by Huawei.

During these tests, we identified a new, previously unknown, security issue that allows to instantaneously crack the WPA/WPA2 passphrase of any of these devices. In other words, by exploiting this vulnerability attackers can gain access to the victim's wireless network in a "single shot", without the need of any brute forcing.
All the tests were performed using a Huawei B153 device; other device models from the same family are probably also affected, but they were not tested.

As required by the ISP that distributes this device to end-users, we do not disclose the full commercial name of the product, but only the manufacturer device model (i.e., Huawei B153).

Vulnerability overview

Like many other Wi-Fi routers, the B153 device supports the WPS procotol, to allow wireless users to easily authenticate to the WPA/WPA2 network. In December 2011, one of the WPS methods, namely the "external registrar" PIN-based method, was demonstrated to be insecure by design, as attackers can brute force the configured PIN in just few hours. This attack is now implemented in publicly available exploitation tools, such as reaver.

We noticed that, in the default settings, B153 devices are configured to accept PIN-based WPS sessions. However, no WPS PIN is actually configured: attackers can spend hours trying all possible WPS PINs, but none of these PIN values will actually work. Nevertheless, the fact that the device actually replies to PIN-based WPS requests was quite suspicious, so we decided to investigate more deeply.

We spent some time analyzing the implementation of the WPS daemon running on the B153. We soon realized that, despite no WPS PIN is actually configured, a specially-crafted WPS session can still force the device to complete the handshake, revealing the current WPA2 passphrase. In other terms, attackers located within the wireless range of the device can instantly recover the WPA passphrase.

It should be considered that this vulnerability allows attacker to return the current WPA/WPA2 key: even if the user has modified the key, choosing a passphrase different than the default one, the attack still succeeds. Additionally, we would also like to stress out that this vulnerability is present in the default device configuration, thus no user action nor any specific customization is required.

Proof-of-concept attack

This attack cannot be performed using a "standard" WPS cracking tool, as it requires a peculiar modification to the WPS protocol implementation.

We implemented a proof-of-concept by modifying the reaver WPS cracking tool, introducing few modifications to the WPS implementation in order to exploit the vulnerability we identified on B153 devices. A sample session using our patched reaver tool is reported below, showing how WPA/WPA2 key is recovered in a "single shot", i.e., with a single WPS session.

$ sudo ./reaver -c 1 -i mon0 -b aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff -vv

Reaver v1.4 WiFi Protected Setup Attack Tool
Copyright (c) 2011, Tactical Network Solutions, Craig Heffner <>

-=[ Patched by Emaze Networks to implement the Huawei B153 WPS attack ]=-

[+] Switching mon0 to channel 1
[+] Waiting for beacon from AA:BB:CC:DD:EE:FF
[+] Associated with
[+] Trying the "secret" pin :-)
[+] Sending EAPOL START request
[+] Received identity request
[+] Sending identity response
[+] Received M1 message
[+] Sending M2 message
[+] Received M3 message
[+] Sending M4 message
[+] Received M5 message
[+] Sending M6 message
[+] Received M7 message
[+] Sending WSC NACK
[+] Sending WSC NACK
[+] Pin cracked in 3 seconds
[+] WPA PSK: '5D3FC94E'
[+] AP SSID: 'xxx79E0'
[+] Nothing done, nothing to save.

To protect end-users, we will not disclose the details of the attack, nor the reaver patch we developed. In fact, despite the device manufacturer now provides a firmware version that should address this vulnerability, to the best of our knowledge the new software is not deployed automatically on the affected devices, and vulnerable users are required to manually update their devices. Unfortunately, according to our experience, end-users apply security patches to their embedded devices very rarely.


We notified this security issue to the manufacturer on May 21st, 2013, providing a technical description of the attack and our proof-of-concept implementation of the exploit. Huawei released an updated firmware version that addresses this vulnerability. Emaze has still not tested the effectiveness of the security patch introduced in this new software version.

1 comment:

  1. great, thanks for your contribution. My Huawei Router supplier has recommended that.