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

Any technology that is massive and has an increasing market will eventually be on the radars of hackers and scammers. Their focus is always on the number of people using a specific technology, its reach, and leverage. 

In this blog, we are going to highlight some of the common cyber-attacks associated with Bluetooth, and some ways to protect yourself from these attacks. 

What is Bluejacking?

Bluejacking is a method to exploit Bluetooth by sending unsolicited anonymous messages to another device. Usually, these messages are spam or advertising messages. Bluejacking is uninvited and invasive as the messages will appear without consent or control, but a hacker cannot take control of a device. 

Bluejacking is easy to initiate since most mobile devices support sending contacts via Bluetooth, which is all that is needed to begin a bluejacking attack. The scammer can use this functionality to insert a message in the contact’s name field and send it via Bluetooth. 

To start this attack, a bluejacker opens his contact list and creates a new contact. He does not save a name and number, but rather he saves a message in place of the contact and does not need to save a number. Then, he would scan for nearby Bluetooth devices. Next, he shares the “contact” with a device that has Bluetooth enabled. The person receiving the message will have no clue the bluejacker sent it. 

What is Bluesnarfing?

While bluejacking only sends data, bluesnarfing steals data. Bluesnarfing allows hackers to remotely access Bluetooth device data, such as calendars, contacts, emails, and text messages. These attacks are done without the victim’s knowledge.

Cybercriminals can complete a bluesnarfing attack on a device even when it is 300 feet away. They can copy the entire content of a device. Some hackers use a phone to call long distances, leaving its owner with a huge telephone bill. 

Bluetooth devices communicate with each other using Object Exchange (OBEX) protocol. This protocol has security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit with multiple tools. In this case, cybercriminals like to use a tool known as bluediving. With this tool, hackers can look for Bluetooth-enabled devices and pair them with them without the victim’s knowledge.

What is Bluebugging?

In bluejacking, the idea is to “prank” device owners by sending harmless messages to annoy or promote products. 

Bluesnarfing, on the other hand, is a more sinister version of bluejacking since hackers access Bluetooth-connected devices without the device owners’ permission to download sensitive data, such as phone books, messages, or images. 

Bluebugging, goes way beyond these other attacks.

Bluebugging is a hacking technique that allows individuals to access a device with a discoverable Bluetooth connection. Once the target device accesses a rigged link, the attacker can take full control of it. The hacker can read and send messages, access the victim’s phonebook, and initiate or eavesdrop on phone calls. 

Once a connection is established with the victim’s device via Bluetooth, the hacker installs a backdoor or malware to bypass authentication. The malware is designed to gain access by exploiting a vulnerability. In some cases, hackers will compromise a device by using a brute force attack, which is a cyber-attack that repeatedly tries to log in to a victim’s account by randomly guessing usernames and passwords. 

Wrapping Up – Protect Your Device!

The most logical and safest way to counter Bluetooth attacks is to turn off Bluetooth when it’s not in use. However, that may not be the best available option at the time. 

When dealing with bluejacking attempts, the important thing to remember is these attacks cannot take full control of your device. They are meant to be annoying or to sell you something. Do not try to engage with these spam messages; just ignore them! 

To help battle bluesnarfing attacks, take advantage of your device’s security features. Use longer PIN codes and passwords to unlock your device. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for any apps and services you use that include sensitive data. Occasionally, you might notice a random request asking to pair to your device. Do not accept any pairing requests from devices you do not recognize. 

Updates are important for all Bluetooth-related attacks, especially bluebugging. Older devices make Bluetooth discoverable by default. Newer computers and phones have corrected this issue. Make it a habit to ignore and or delete unsolicited messages. 

Since bluebugging attacks can be carried out without consent, checking the resources of your devices is crucial. If you notice the data on your cell phone, or processing power on your device has increased dramatically, your device may be compromised. It also helps to see if your device is doing anything unusual, like suddenly disconnecting and reconnecting calls. That could indicate someone else is controlling it. 

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