Some say that Bluetooth technology is dying out, but that’s debatable. Although Wi-Fi has largely replaced the need to use Bluetooth to transfer data, people still use it with their wireless headphones and other devices.
But it can be a significant security risk, leaving data vulnerable to interception, especially if older versions of this technology than 4.2 are used.
Villains also often use Bluetooth connections to spread malware by sending signals with specific packets, which could cause disruptions in the pairing process or during communications.
Obviously, the best way to reduce the risk would be to disable Bluetooth.
But let’s be honest, that is not a viable option, if for example we use a Smartwatch or hands-free in the car.
Common Bluetooth Security Issues
The four most common attack methods on a Bluetooth device are: bluebugging, bluejacking, blueborne, and bluesnafing. We will explain very briefly each one of them before moving on to the security measures.
Through this type of attack, a hacker can take control of a device to make phone calls, send and read SMS, have access to contacts to delete or modify them, spy on conversations and connect to the Internet.
To do this, it creates a backdoor by tricking the phone into, for example, pretending to be a wireless headset or another supposedly trustworthy device that uses Bluetooth.
It can also take advantage of errors (bugs) in the authentication of the device or the victim’s ignorance of bluetooth capabilities.
In order to perpetrate the misdeed, the villain must be within a 10-meter radius of the target device, or have physical access to it.
Bluejacking describes the act of sending anonymous messages, and even images, to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, in-car devices, printers, and personal data assistants (PDAs).
Normally, it usually does not go beyond being a rather annoying joke, or a way to transmit an advertising message in a massive way.
Although the sender does not take control of the device, if combined with another type of attack, it can lead to more serious problems.
It is usually carried out in very crowded areas (airports, shopping malls, train stations, etc.) looking for people who have devices with Bluetooth turned on.
It does not necessarily have to be considered a crime.
It is perhaps the most dangerous attack.
In a nutshell, BlueBorne is an attack vector that can allow cybercriminals to use Bluetooth connections to silently take control of devices, exploiting known or zero-day vulnerabilities.
It does not require any interaction on the part of the victim.
For a device to be compromised, it doesn’t have to be paired with the attacker’s device. It doesn’t even have to be set to discoverable mode. As disabling this feature doesn’t prevent attackers from discovering the device.
This type of attack can compromise thousands of Bluetooth-enabled smartphones, computers, entertainment systems, and medical devices running on any of the major operating systems: Android, iOS, Windows, and Linux.
BlueBorne can serve various malicious purposes, such as espionage, data theft, ransomware attacks, and even the creation of large botnets.
Last but not least, Bluesnarfing refers to data theft through unauthorized access via Bluetooth.
Criminals often combine Bluebugging and Bluesnarfing methods to break into a user’s device and steal data. Such as contacts, messages, images, videos, and even passwords from the victim’s device.
Some attackers can use the victim’s phone to call long distance, leaving its owner with a huge phone bill.
They typically exploit problems with some implementations of the Object Exchange Protocol (OBEX). Which is commonly use to exchange information between wireless devices.
Bluesnarfing tools are readily available on the Internet, along with information on how to use them.
How to reduce security risks
Manufacturers and system developers are constantly working to improve Bluetooth connections and devices.
And since smartphones these days come with built-in authentication. Bluetooth attacks are on the decline.
But the villains are always developing new techniques to find different ways to hack our devices. And the Bluetooth system is also in their sights.
Turn it off when not in use
Hackers obviously target people who leave Bluetooth on for longer periods of time. Be sure to disable Bluetooth when you’re not using it to minimize the risk of an attack. Especially if you have an older phone.
You will also save battery.
Keep your devices up to date
It is essential to use the latest version of Bluetooth (as of version 4.0 all connections between devices will be encrypt by default and with it, the information you send) and make sure that the operating system is up to date.
Updates bring important bug fixes and security patches. Without them, your device will be vulnerable to villains looking for their next target.