Despite the cybersecurity world brimming with articles about the latest developments in modern cybersecurity tools, the most notable ones being artificial intelligence and machine learning- we’d like to take a step back into the basics and talk about Bluetooth for once.
In the present day and age, most of us tend to look down on Bluetooth as a vestigial feature that we only ever turn to if we’ve got no other alternative readily available to share media. On the contrary, however, this devil-may-care attitude has elevated the status of Bluetooth to something so commonplace to the modern user of technology.
Unfortunately, however, despite the prevalence of Bluetooth, only a select few users understand how the technology works, and an even more limited number of individuals realize the security risks associated with Bluetooth-enabled devices. Even more alarming is that as the cybercrimes associated with Bluetooth grow increasingly complex, it often leads to unprecedented impacts on an organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure since most CISOs and CSOs tend to ignore the warning signs.
Before we can analyze the several ways in which the evolving nature of Bluetooth hacks has impacted cybersecurity, we’d like to bring our readers up to mark some of the threats facing Bluetooth threats.
What Are Some Of The Threats Facing Bluetooth Devices?
Usually, the cybersecurity industry tends to overlook vulnerabilities and threats almost immediately after they are brought to the general public's notice or if they influence a lesser talked-about technological phenomenon.
As far as Bluetooth-enabled devices are concerned, some of the most prominent threats include bluejacking and bluebugging. Bluejacking refers to exploiting a fundamental Bluetooth feature that allows users to send messages to the connected devices within range.
A rather conventional method of exploiting Bluetooth-enabled devices, bluejacking allows cybercriminals to send unsolicited messages via the manipulated devices. Although the name bluejacking implies that the hacker hijacks into the victims’ device, the reality is quite different since the bluejacker only has enough power to send messages and interrupts the communication between two connected devices.
Using Bluetooth as an entry point, the hacker uses bluejacking to intercept communication and send messages. Fortunately, however, the consequences of bluejacking can easily be prevented by configuring the device’s settings to an invisible or non-discoverable mode.
Similarly, bluebugging is a hacking method that allows hackers to access mobile commands on a sabotaged Bluetooth-enabled device. As the name suggests, bluebugging will enable hackers to the bug or eavesdrop on their victim’s mobile devices. Hackers may exploit the bugged Bluetooth device however they may please, although usually, hackers employ bluebugging to control and intercept communication on mobile devices remotely. Additionally, however, cybercriminals may also use bluebugging to send and read text messages and surveilling phone calls being sent to and from the mobile phone.
Although bluejacking and bluebugging are dangerous enough to cause substantial damage to a Bluetooth-enabled device, modern Bluetooth threats such as BlueBorne is far more damage-inducing than both of these hacking tactics combined.
First brought to the notice of the public around the end of 2017, the BlueBorne vulnerability was thought to be resolved in the multiple devices it had affected. Quite on the contrary, however, newly surfaced research points towards a rather bleak reality in which several of the devices affected by the vulnerability failed to receive sufficient security fixes.
Instead of operating as a conventional Bluetooth vulnerability, the BlueBorne threat targeted different parts of a Bluetooth-enabled device and would pretend to be a device that wished to connect to another device. Still, then that connection would be exploited by BlueBorne and require the user to perform a specific action.
In retrospect, the BlueBorne threat brought into notice the growing sophistication levels of the Bluetooth hacks facing individuals and enterprises today, along with bringing into light that regardless of the lessons learned from the BlueBorne vulnerability, there are still several unsuspecting devices that remain vulnerable to similar threat vectors.
Another notable vulnerability that has only recently been discovered in August 2019 is the threat posed by KNOB attacks, which refer to the Key Negotiation of Bluetooth attacks. These attacks allowed cybercriminals to exploit the vulnerability present between the keys of two connected devices. In principle, a KNOB attack uses this phenomenon, enabling cybercriminals to intercept and manipulate the exchanged data between the connected devices.
What Do The Modern-Day Bluetooth Threats Imply For The Future Of Cybersecurity?
Although the threats we’ve mentioned above are serious enough to make the least-invested person in cybersecurity scared, the question remains, “why should anyone care?”
Well, the answer is simple. Bluetooth hacks matter because we are all impacted by them, in one way or another. Because there are over 8.2 billion Bluetooth-enabled devices globally, the scope of damage that can be caused becomes quite evident.
Not only are the threats we’ve mentioned above of interest to organizations invested in cybersecurity, but they also matter to the cybersecurity landscape since they point towards a changing and ever-evolving threat landscape.
Propagators of these threat vectors understand the value of data and leverage the security loopholes present within Bluetooth’s technologies to gain more accessible access to the confidential information of a whopping number of 8 billion users!
Considering the devastating aftermath of a data breach, particularly in the instance of blue bugging where a hacker has access to all that goes on inside a victim’s phone, the need for better cybersecurity becomes quite evident. Let’s consider an example where an individual trades in foreign exchange to demonstrate further. Considering how sneaky Bluetooth hacks tend to be, that individual could have their entire analytics in the hands of hackers without even knowing it. This is entirely related to poor risk management, among the biggest mistakes traders make.
At the end of the article, we’d like to emphasize the gap in the cybersecurity practices employed in enterprises today, which needs to focus on more menial aspects of security, including Bluetooth devices.