Bluetooth Security Flaw – Is Bluetooth Safe to Use in Public?

08/19/2019     Author: Billy Gray

A recent vulnerability found in Bluetooth tech has left millions of devices vulnerable to attack from hackers. Just how safe actually is Bluetooth to use in public?

 

How often do you use Bluetooth? If you’re rocking a new model of smartphone then the chances are you don’t even have a headphone jack anymore, so the answer to that question is probably: a lot. We all use Bluetooth a lot as we go about our day, connecting to headphones, screens, speakers, and so on. But just how secure actually is Bluetooth to use?

phrase "bluetooth security" with 4 locks

Due a recent vulnerability in the tech, millions of people are now at risk of being attacked by hackers who could cast their display onto a separate screen and see everything they’re doing – including their passwords when the type them in.

What’s more, this vulnerability would also allow someone to interfere with data being sent to and from your mobile, which makes you even more vulnerable. We should mention that we’re turning off our Bluetooth while writing this article.

Is Bluetooth safe?

Since it was first launched, Bluetooth has been the target of various attacks. The technology is pretty easy to take advantage of and most people simply leave it on while they go about their day, unsuspecting of any possible malicious activity that might be going on around them.

a lock's lying on the smartphone's screen

As with any wireless method is transferring data, Bluetooth has its vulnerabilities. The same can be said for Wi-Fi and even simply sending messages over 4G networks – hence why VPNs are becoming increasingly popular.

Bluetooth is very convenient, but this comes with increased risk. It means that people can find it easier to send you data without your permission. This could in theory be used to send you a Trojan horse virus, or some other form of malware.

You can actually avoid this quite easily by simply setting your Bluetooth to non-discoverable. If you’re just using Bluetooth to connect with your headphones and devices around the home, then this is a great way to avoid having any additional risk for the price of your convenience.

KNOB Vulnerability

A recent vulnerability that has left millions of devices prone to attack is called the KNOB vulnerability. This stands for Key Navigation of Bluetooth Attack. It allows attackers to shorten your Bluetooth encryption key, making it more susceptible to attacks.

a string of code

The findings were made by the Center for IT-Security, alongside various companies like Apple and Microsoft. The findings have cast a shade of doubt over the security of Bluetooth – especially seeing as so many people are now relying on the technology to connect to various smart devices such as wireless headphones and speakers.

Attackers could reduce your Bluetooth encryption to a single digit, making it extremely easy to access. From here, they could monitor your activity and even send data back and forth between your devices. This isn’t ideal.

Fortunately, the attacker would have to be within range of the device being attacked, and they’d need to be able to discover your Bluetooth. Thus, you can avoid being a target by setting your Bluetooth to non-discoverable, or just disconnecting it altogether until you need it. This will also save your battery in the long run as Bluetooth is known to eat into battery life at a fairly high rate.

The wrap-up

Make sure that you’re keeping the public from accessing your Bluetooth, and be careful what you do when you’re actually using it. Attacks via Bluetooth aren’t easy to carry out, but they remain more common than you’d like to think. You can easily stop yourself from being a target by simply turning off your Bluetooth when you’re in public. Stay secure out there.

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