Common Bluetooth Attacks

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Two common bluetooth attacks are bluesnarfing and bluejacking. If you’re planning on taking the Security+ exam, you should have basic understanding of several attacks that target bluetooth devices.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. An attacker is able to access email contact lists on your smartphone. What type of attack is this?

A. Bluesnarfing

B. War chalking

C. War driving

D. Bluejacking

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

Bluetooth AttacksBluetooth Wireless

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless system used in personal area networks (PANs) or a network of devices close to a single person. Bluetooth devices include smartphones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and computer devices.

The range of Bluetooth was originally designed for about three meters (about 10 feet), but the range is often farther, and ultimately extends beyond a person’s personal space. Attackers have found that attacks on these networks are possible. Two common attacks are bluesnarfing and bluejacking. Both attacks are much easier when Bluetooth devices remain in Discovery mode.

Risk with Bluetooth Devices

When Bluetooth devices are first configured, they are configured in Discovery mode. Bluetooth devices use MAC addresses, and in Discovery mode the Bluetooth device broadcasts its MAC address, allowing other devices to see it and connect to it. This is required when pairing Bluetooth devices.

For example, if you had a cell phone and an earpiece that both supported Bluetooth, you would use Discovery mode to pair the two devices. You could then keep the cell phone in your pocket or purse, but still carry on a conversation through the earpiece.

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One of the risks with Bluetooth occurs when a Bluetooth device is left in Discovery mode. Just as you can pair an earpiece with your cell phone, an attacker can pair a Bluetooth-enabled laptop with your cell phone if it’s left in Discovery mode. With the right software, the attacker can then launch bluesnarfing and bluejacking attacks.

Although there are improvements in Bluetooth devices, such as using PINs or passwords, it’s still important to ensure that Discovery mode is disabled after pairing them. With Discovery mode disabled, the device doesn’t broadcast information about itself. Additionally, many devices add encryption to the communication process when Discovery mode is disabled.

Different Bluetooth Attacks

Several attack methods target Bluetooth devices specifically. These include:

  • Bluejacking Bluetooth attacks. This is the practice of sending unsolicited messages to nearby Bluetooth devices. Bluejacking messages are typically text, but can also be images or sounds. Bluejacking is relatively harmless, but does cause some confusion when users start receiving messages.
  • Bluesnarfing Bluetooth attacks. Any unauthorized access to or theft of information from a Bluetooth connection is bluesnarfing. A bluesnarfing attack can access information, such as email, contact lists, calendars, and text messages. Attackers use tools such as hcitool and obexftp.
  • Bluebugging Bluetooth attacks. Bluebugging attacks allow an attacker to take over a mobile phone. Attackers can listen in on phone conversations, enable call forwarding, send messages, and more.

The single best protection against all bluetooth attacks is to ensure that Bluetooth devices are not left in Discovery mode.

Remember this

Bluesnarfing is the unauthorized access to or theft of information from a Bluetooth device. Bluejacking is the unauthorized sending of text messages to a nearby Bluetooth device. Ensuring devices are not left in Discovery mode is a primary protection for Bluetooth devices.


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Q. An attacker is able to access email contact lists on your smartphone. What type of attack is this?

A. Bluesnarfing

B. War chalking

C. War driving

D. Bluejacking

Answer is A. Attackers are able to access data (including email contact lists) on a smartphone in a bluesnarfing attack.

War chalking is the practice of marking the location of wireless networks.

War driving is the practice of looking for wireless networks, often by driving around.

Bluejacking is the practice of sending unsolicited messages to other Bluetooth devices.

See Chapter 4 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on securing wireless networks.

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