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September 26, 2019

Bluetooth Security: What You Should Know to Keep Yourself Safe

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Millions of devices worldwide come enabled with Bluetooth technology, from our phones to our speakers and headphones, to our fitness trackers and smart devices. While the technology is a great way to connect two devices, did you know that it is actually susceptible to hacking attacks?Although these attacks are rare, they do happen. In 2017, the “BlueBorne” attack revealed a vulnerability that allowed many devices to be remotely taken over and exploited. Another attack occurred in 2018 that manipulated flaws in pairing technology to gain device access. A trend in air travel has also emerged recently where pranksters can use Apple’s AirDrop technology to share inappropriate photos with fellow passengers on their flight. While generally harmless, the pranks have brought to light flaws in the privacy and safety of Bluetooth technology. Here’s everything you need to know about Bluetooth security and how to keep yourself safe from hacks:

  • What are the types of Bluetooth attacks?
  • How concerned should you be?
  • What can you do to protect yourself?

What are the Types of Bluetooth Attacks?

There are three main categories of attacks:

  • Bluebugging: Bluebugging is the first and worst type of attack. It allows hackers to completely control your device, meaning they can access data storage and listen in on phone calls.
  • Bluejacking: Much like it sounds, bluejacking allows hackers to hijack some of your device’s abilities. Hackers can use the Bluetooth connection to sneak into your phone and send messages to other nearby devices. They can also make expensive calls on your device to cost you money. Although it’s definitely a flaw in Bluetooth security, bluejacking is more of an annoyance than a serious threat.
  • Bluesnarfing: The last type of attack is called bluesnarfing. It allows hackers to download personal information from your phone such as emails, photos, texts, calendar dates, and contacts. However, hackers must be quick when executing this type of attack. They can only download data for as long as you remain within range of them, which usually ranges from 30 to 300 feet.

Bluetooth devices are also prone to other types of mischief that can impact your safety and privacy, such as:

  • Location Tracking: Hackers can actually attack devices constantly connected to Bluetooth (like fitness trackers) to know your location at all times.
  • Denial of Service: A Denial of Service hack is another Bluetooth security flaw that is more of an annoyance than a serious breach. However, you should still be aware that this form of attack allows hackers to crash devices, affect phone calls, and even drain your battery.
  • App Attack: When it comes to Bluetooth, it isn’t just hackers you need to worry about. Legitimate apps can affect your privacy as well. These apps can secretly use your Bluetooth to harvest data and track your location. Facebook and YouTube are allegedly two such apps that abuse Bluetooth security.

How Concerned Should You Be?

Hearing that your Bluetooth-enabled devices are a hacking target probably comes as a shock and might even spark a little bit of panic. However, while you should be vigilant and aware that these attacks can happen, they are still rare, for a couple of reasons:

  • Difficulty: The first reason Bluetooth attacks aren’t very common is because they are not easy to pull off. Not just any would-be hacker can pull off these attacks. They must have skill and knowledge about this type of technology for any sort of success.
  • Proximity: Secondly, Bluetooth attacks are prohibited by technology. Hackers must be physically close to you in order to pull off this type of attack.
  • Efficacy: Finally, these types of attacks simply aren’t very useful. Very few of them can actually learn valuable information from you or steal useful data. These hacks mostly just cause mischief and are rarely worth a hacker’s time.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself and Your Bluetooth Security?

Even though Bluetooth hacks are rare, there’s no harm in taking a few simple steps to protect yourself:

  • Keep Tech Up-To-Date: Usually, when a company releases a software update for their devices, that update comes with patches for flaws in security. Those patches can address any new flaws in the security of Bluetooth.
  • Turn it Off: When you’re not actively using Bluetooth on your devices, simply turn it (or your device) off.
  • Limit App Permissions: Some apps may ask for permission to access Bluetooth. Unless it’s necessary for the app to function, don’t grant it permission.
  • Refuse Strange Pairing Requests: If you get a Bluetooth pairing request and you aren’t the one trying to connect two devices, don’t accept the request.
  • Research New Devices: While most people don’t ever consider this step, do some research into any new devices you’re planning on buying to learn about how secure its Bluetooth abilities are.
  • Keep Your Distance: If you have to do something important over Bluetooth, it’s best that you do it in a private place with no other people nearby.

While you don’t need to avoid using Bluetooth technology for good, it’s always wise to be aware of the risks of using it and the steps you can take to stay safe.

Increase security on all of your devices by using a VPN as well.

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