Millions of Bluetooth-enabled devices across the globe are vulnerable to a recently discovered security loophole in the Bluetooth technologies dubbed BlueBorne.
Although so far there has not been reported an incident of a BlueBorne attack being perpetrated, security experts argue that if the Bluetooth exploit can be used in a controlled lab. It is only a matter of time before the exploit falls into the wrong hands and hacking tools created and unleashed into the world.
What is BlueBorne?
Let us first start by understanding what it is and how it works. BlueBorne is a hybrid Trojan-Worm malware that uses Bluetooth connection to spread from device to device. Since it has the worm-properties, any device hosting this Trojan potentially becomes a carrier and will spread it around as the malware will actively search for any vulnerable hosts in the vicinity.
The most dangerous part about the BlueBorne, vulnerable hosts include any and all Bluetooth-enabled devices; be it Windows, Mac OSX, iOS, or Android devices. It is not device specific, as long as the device is Bluetooth enabled, BlueBorne and infiltrate, corrupt, and turn the device into another carrier.
The threat posed by BlueBorne gets bigger since Bluetooth connectivity is one of the most popular and widely used connection protocols around the world. You only need to think of the number of devices that uses Bluetooth connections; the growing number of IoT devices, smartphones, smart TVs, home security appliances, smart car gadgets.
Any of these various Bluetooth enabled devices could potentially be infected and become a host. Some device might be more vulnerable to attack, (say your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse) and there is little defense mechanism put in place for them.
“Tackling the BlueBorne exploit is challenging because Bluetooth is not a communications protocol that is monitored and inspected by most network security tools,’ said David Maciejak, the Director of Security Research, Fortinet.
“Therefore, traditional security devices such as intrusion detection systems will most likely not be able to detect BlueBorne attacks. Since this technology has not really been a focus for security researchers, it is highly likely that we will see an increase in attackers looking to exploit Bluetooth implementations in the future.”
How to protect yourself from BlueBorne attack
Ø Turn off Bluetooth connection whenever you are not using it; people have a habit of leaving their Bluetooth on throughout. Stop this habit, and going forward, turn it on only when you want to use it, and turn it back off once you’re done using it.
Ø Patch your systems as soon as the vendor releases updates; it will help to turn automatic updates on. Both Apple and Microsoft has issued a security patch for iOS and Windows OS respectively and Google is said to be working on releasing a patch soon.
Ø Identify your devices (all your devices in your local network) and closely monitor their manufacturers for any Bluetooth updates. Make sure you are running the latest drivers from the manufacturers.
You should know BlueBorne works by first scanning for Bluetooth-enabled devices. After that, it starts probing the devices it has connected to for any relevant vulnerabilities.
“Once a target is identified, the hack takes less than 10 seconds, and targeted devices don’t even need to accept an incoming connection in order to be compromised. Once a device has been compromised, attackers are able to run arbitrary commands on the device and even access and potentially steal data. The attack also immediately begins to seek out and spread to other vulnerable Bluetooth-enabled targets,” further warns, Maciejak.