Please note that this article is a follow-on article from two previous articles (Eircom Exposes Its Broadband Customers to Serious Security Risks and Eircom Security – More Bad News and Some Suggested Solutions). The previous articles lay out the problems and some suggested solutions in detail. This article will not repeat those detailed explanations and justifications. I am writing this article with the assumption that readers will have first read the two original articles.

This article starts by presenting the details of Eircom’s response before providing a brief analysis leading to some conclusions. For those of you too lazy to read the whole article, were this to be school I’d give Eircom a passing grade, but not a great one. Say a high D or a low C.

[tags]Eircom, Netopia, WEP, WPA[/tags]

The Response

This article is based on the letter I received from Eircom today in response to the complaint I lodged with them on the 11th of September this year, and the content of their new Wireless security page. Since I’m too lazy to transcribe the reply from Eircom I scanned it in and have included the scans below. Eircom’s new wireless security page can be found at Of particular interest is their new page with instructions to help users Enhance Wireless Security.

Eircom Reply - Page 1
Page 1 – Click to Enlarge

Eircom Reply - Page 2
Page 2 – Click to Enlarge


In my previous articles I raised three problems: the flaw in the generation of the default keys and SSIDs, the use of WEP over WPA, and the lack of a password on the routers. I will look at each in turn.

The Flaw in the default WEP Keys and SSIDs

In summary, there are a number of programs (I’ve seen at least three, a C++ one, a Java one, and a web-based one using PHP) doing the rounds on the net which allow users to get the default WEP key for an Eircom Netopia router from it’s default SSID (name). This means that with a default configuration your network can be trivially entered by an attacker in possession of one of these programs. This problem can be fixed by changing either the SSID or the WEP key or both.

In response to this problem Eircom have issued an advisory on their web page and will be directly contacting their customers. The advisory provides a link to a page with instructions for changing your SSID and WEP key.

This, to me, is an adequate response. Realistically, I don’t see what else Eircom could have done. So, we’ll give them full marks on this one.

WEP rather than WPA

Again just a quick recap. The Netopia routers support two wireless encryption modes, WEP and WPA. WEP has been very badly compromised. WPA is not perfect, but, assuming users use a long random encryption key, WPA provides significantly increased security over WEP. Some older devices and operating systems don’t support WPA.

Despite the fact that the Netopia routers supplied by Eircom do support WPA neither Eircom’s old welcome booklet, old install CD, nor old website gave instructions for setting up WPA. In response to my complain Eircom have now updated the instructions on their site to include limited discussion of WPA. Eircom point out that WPA provides more security than WEP but don’t go into the shortcomings of WEP. Eircom will also be updating their welcome pack and their install CD.

This is an adequate response but not a great one. Eircom fell short of making WPA the default or even advising people to use WPA over WEP where possible. There are understandable reasons for this, but it’s still disappointing. I also noticed that Eircom did the smart thing and did some ‘ass-covering’ too:

It is the customers responsibility to ensure that they use a suitable level of security to meet their own individual requirements.

No Password on The Router

If users have set no password on their router it is possible to take it over simply by luring them to a malicious web page. These attacks reply solely on standard JavaScript and are not dependent on any bugs or vulnerabilities. These attacks have been reported in the wild but do not appear to be very common yet. I would guess that they will get more common as time goes on.

Eircom ignored this entire branch of my complaint and have done nothing to address the issue. A great big zero for this I’m afraid.

Some Good Advice Added

I was very pleased to see the following very sensible advice added to the ‘Enhance wireless security’ page on the Eircom site:

If you are not using wireless access, that is, if you are using an ethernet cable to connect your modem to your computer, eircom recommends that you disable the wireless feature on your modem completely.


First and foremost I’m glad to see that Eircom have responded to two of these three issues. The response is not perfect, but it is prompt (considering Eircom is a large corporation) and relatively comprehensive. One of my three issues was addressed as well as could be expected, another was addressed in a reasonable but slightly disappointing way, but the last was totally ignored. Being generous that’s two out of three, though I think one and a half out of three is probably fairer.

If you are an Eircom broadband user with a Netopia modem I would suggest you take the following steps to improve your security:

  • Change you SSID (Update: This is not enough on it’s own, this only deters users of SOME of the key gen programs out there. You MUST change your key too)
  • Switch to WPA with a strong randomly generated key (ideally the full 63 characters logn)
  • Set a password on your router (and write it down so you remember it 🙂 )

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