Q: What do I need to do about the new Bluetooth issue?
A recent security white paper published by Armis Labs revealed a new way that many Bluetooth-enabled devices can be compromised and exploited dubbed “BlueBorne.” The potential threat exists for Android, iOS, Windows and Linux devices as well as many common household gadgets often referred to as IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
What is BlueBorne?
The name “BlueBorne” was used to reflect the attack method, which is through the air, targeting the very common Bluetooth connection. What makes this particular attack so disconcerting is that it doesn’t require the user to do anything in order to become a victim; they simply need to have their Bluetooth radio turned on.
“Even if the device is locked, the BlueBorne exploit can compromise the device,” said Michael Parker of Armis.
The exploit simply ‘bullies’ its way into connecting without the usual pairing process that we’re all used to performing when connecting via Bluetooth. Once a remote attacker gains access via the BlueBorne vulnerability, they can do just about anything they want to the device without the user ever seeing anything happening.
Who’s at risk?
The biggest risk is to users with older mobile devices running older operating systems.
iPhone and iPad users that are running iOS 9.3.5 or lower are vulnerable (Apple fixed the vulnerability with iOS 10 and higher).
Android users have a more complicated path to figure out whether they are vulnerable because there are so many variations of the OS that can be impacted by both the phone maker and your wireless carrier.
To make things easier, Armis has created a free app called “Armis BlueBorne Scanner” which is available in the Google Play store. Once the app is installed, you simply click on the “Tap To Check” button to scan your device for the vulnerability.
If your device is deemed safe, the app will provide an option to “Check Devices Around Me,” which when tapped will scan your immediate environment for potentially vulnerable devices (which could include your neighbors devices if you are close enough).
Steps to protecting yourself
Remember, this is primarily an issue of older operating systems, so making sure you have the most recent updates on all your devices will be all the protection you need.
A quick way to check for available updates on most mobile devices is by going to the “Settings” menu and either look for a software update or check the “General” or “About Device” menu for the update option.
If for any reason you can’t get an update for your device to fix this problem, turning off the Bluetooth option, especially when you’re in a public setting would be advisable until you do get it updated.
The good news
The good news on this threat is that it requires the attacker to be relatively close (less than 30 feet) and Armis has yet to see this attack being used “in the wild.”
Because this attack is so stealthy, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that—since it’s now a known attack method—it will start being used without victims knowing that it’s happening. Make sure you have the most current update on all your Bluetooth enabled devices to best protect yourself.