Bluetooth

Bluetooth Attacks and Security Tips – Awareness Results in Better Protection

The history of Bluetooth is quite recent – the 1990s, to be exact. Ericsson, a Swedish multinational active in the networking and telecommunications domain, developed Bluetooth. The name ‘Bluetooth’ comes from a renowned 10th century Danish King, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, responsible for uniting Norway and Denmark. The Bluetooth logo is a combination of Harald’s initials.

Dr. Jaap Haarsten is the man credited with conceiving the idea for Bluetooth, and while it was invented in 1994, the first Bluetooth enabled consumer product was only launched five years later in 1999. This a was a hands-free mobile headset, and its launch was followed by the launch of Bluetooth-enabled dongles and mice, with the first Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone hitting the shelves in 2000.

The evolution in Bluetooth has been swift since it came into being in the 1990s: at first limited in reach, it has become an all-encompassing standard that caters to multiple use cases. From wireless music to file sharing, from device pairing to household appliances and accessories, the standard covers a gamut of uses.

Bluetooth can be a security risk

Any technology that has a massive and ever-increasing market penetration will inevitably be on the radar of hackers and cybercriminals. Their focus is always on the number of people using a specific technology, it’s reach, and leverage. It’s no surprise then that there are plenty of security risks associated with Bluetooth.

Bluetooth works by establishing a Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) to connect Bluetooth enabled devices with one another. Bluetooth-connected devices share data with one another and you want this data to be safe and secure. Moreover, you don’t want criminals to gain access to your Bluetooth-enabled devices. There is a critical need for us to be aware of the associated risks so that we can take steps definitive steps to protect us against Bluetooth attacks.

Here are some common types of Bluetooth attacks:

BlueJacking

Yep, no prizes for guessing it is a combination of two words – Bluetooth and hijacking. This is a type of attack in which a Bluetooth-enabled device hijacks another Bluetooth device to send spam advertising.

Imagine you are in a public place with the Bluetooth on your device switched on. There is a criminal at work in the public space with a BlueJacking device, and they pair the device with yours and starts to spend spam-style advertising messages. At face value, this problem sounds like an annoyance more than anything else, but what if one of these messages contains a malicious link? Or is a carefully crafted message that convinces you to share sensitive personal information?

A BlueJacking attempt can go from an annoyance to a critical security issue.

BlueSmacking (A DoS or denial-of-service attack)

A DoS attack involves a server or device receiving a truckload of data packets, or even over-sized data packets it finds difficult to handle. The result is that the device shuts down or malfunctions. What if your Bluetooth device is considered important enough to launch a denial-of-service (DoS) attack against?

This is not as farfetched as it sounds. Today, mobile devices are not just used for calling or sending messages. Phones, tablets, and laptops are being used to store important information and execute programs that have a direct impact on a business-critical project. Now imagine a BlueSmacking attack against numerous such devices that are a part of a single organization.

BlueSnarfing

This is the more ‘frightening’ version of ‘BlueJacking’. While the latter sends data, the BlueSnarfing steals data. As in all attacks which aim to gain unauthorized access to data, you won’t realize someone has accessed your data until it is too late.

Picture a scenario in which you are at the airport and having some free time on your hands before you board your flight, you decide to get some work done.

Unbeknownst to you, the person sitting next to you is a hacker who is just waiting for an opportunity to BlueSnarf unsuspecting users such are yourself. If your Bluetooth is switched on, your device is paired clandestinely and the data on your device is accessed, which can include emails, text messages, and much more.

Eavesdropping

We are living in a world where we are working from home and attending numerous business meetings throughout the day. Many of the headsets we use are Bluetooth enabled. Criminals can exploit vulnerabilities in such headsets and eavesdrop on your conversations.

Here’s the really scary bit. Hackers can eavesdrop on the conversations you are having with the people around you as well. This is the kind of breach of privacy that can result in bigger problems.

The ‘open sesame’ bug

Cybercriminals can also create a backdoor on your device or laptop using Bluetooth. Once a backdoor has been established, the attacker can have a field day as they can access all manner of sensitive information stored on this device. You won’t realize it, but a criminal can spy on all your activities on the device. Imagine the potential for havoc.

How do you protect yourself?

Now that you know the security risks, how do you protect yourself? It’s not that difficult if you take the basic steps.

  • Always be very aware of where your device is. Do not misplace it or forget about where you have kept it. This is super important if you are working from a public space. Also, if you do lose your phone, make sure you can easily lock it remotely.
  • Get into the habit of not using Bluetooth to transfer sensitive information. If you do share important files, encrypt them first.
  • If you are not using your Bluetooth, turn it off. When you do this, you switch off a possible cyberattack vector.

Install a cybersecurity solution

We have talked about malicious links that can drop a malware on your Bluetooth-enabled device, attackers establishing a backdoor on the device, and much more. While Bluetooth best practices can help you stay protected, there is no getting away from the fact that you need a robust antivirus solution safeguarding your desktops, laptops and mobile devices.

With Sophos Home, you get the same award-winning security features that protect some of the biggest companies in business. You need such security because many of the cyberthreats impacting businesses attack private users too. This is a comprehensive antivirus tool that scans and cleans your computer, removing hidden malware that might be impacting performance. It also keeps your data safe by blocking viruses, ransomware and different types of malware. 

Sophos Home Free includes a free 30-day trial of Premium. Plus get immediate Advanced Malware Removal to thoroughly clean your computer of any current malware infections.

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