Bluetooth is a technology that has been around for awhile now. It uses high-speed, short-range radio frequency communication so devices, such as laptops, keyboards, cell phones, headsets, speakers and smart watches, can create a network and transfer data between the devices. Bluetooth is a low-cost technology that has been widely adopted; however, there are some security threats users should be aware of when it comes to using Bluetooth technology. In light of recent events where Bluetooth devices experienced malicious and unwarranted attacks, it is important to note the potential vulnerabilities that can arise, especially if you happen to use Bluetooth technology on a frequent or daily basis. Because trust me, no one wants to fall victim to malicious attacks, especially the so-called “Bluebugging” attacks!
A new, more serious type of hacking called “Bluebugging” has been on the rise lately, causing security concerns for avid Bluetooth users. Bluebugging is when hackers attack Bluetooth-connected devices to eavesdrop, intercept messages, steal personal data and plan DoS and MITM attacks. There have been all sorts of [interesting] names for Bluetooth-related attacks: Bluejacking, Bluesnarfing and now Bluebugging; all of which are different “tiers” of Bluetooth hacking. Since Bluetooth is a network-based technology, security management is practically non-existent. To attack, all hackers need to do is find your network device connection and enter the connection to steal your information. So what differentiates attacks as Bluejacking, Bluesnarfing and Bluebugging?
Bluejacking is known to be the most common type of Bluetooth attacks that is not as detrimental as the other two. In this type of attack, hackers will get into your Bluetooth connection and send spam/unsolicited messages to the device you are using. Annoying? Yes. Unnecessary? Also yes.
Bluesnarfing is a more serious type of attack where hackers will go in and steal personal bits of information from your device. Since this kind of attack can go undetected, it is difficult for the owners of the devices to know that they have been hacked.
The most serious type of Bluetooth attack, Bluebugging, is a rising concern when it comes to Bluetooth security. Bluebugging is an advanced level of hacking and if a hacker successfully “bluebugs” your device, the hacker has access to all the information on the device and complete control of the device as well. When Bluetooth devices are in the “discoverable” state, the likelihood of falling victim to a Bluebugging attack is higher. It’s very important for users to stay up-to-date on any updates, especially on your mobile devices, to make sure any bugs are addressed.
With these kinds of attacks increasing, you may wonder how you can lessen the possibility of experiencing these attacks. As mentioned above, one way to prevent the attacks is to use your Bluetooth in “non-discoverable” mode. This makes the connection private so hackers can’t willingly break into your network since the network isn’t discoverable aka nice and private. If you happen to be using Bluetooth on your mobile device, be sure that your mobile device is current with the latest updates and patches. Another strategy is to not use Bluetooth connections in areas where connections may be sketchy and untrustworthy. As a rule of thumb, the most important things you should do is to turn off Bluetooth when you are not using it and to set your devices to “non-discoverable” mode when Bluetooth is turned on. Even just by doing these two things, Bluetooth users can mitigate the risk of experiencing Bluejacking, Bluesnarfing and Bluebugging attacks. I know for me personally, if my Bluetooth icon is on when I’m not using it, I immediately turn it off when I see the illuminated Bluetooth button indicating it’s on. I’ve always been somewhat of an overly cautious person when it comes to technology, but hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry! I don’t think any of us want to be Bluebugged!
To learn more about Bluetooth security, be sure to read NIST Special Publication 800-121: Guide to Bluetooth Security.
Bluetooth is a registered trademark of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in the United States and other countries.