In spite of the cybersecurity world brimming with articles about the latest developments in the use of 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 easily available to share media through. On the contrary, however, it is this devil-may-care attitude that has actually 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 the fact that as the cybercrimes associated with Bluetooth grow increasingly complex in nature, 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 get into analyzing the several ways in which the evolving nature of Bluetooth hacks has impacted cybersecurity, we’d like to bring our readers up to the 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 into the notice of the general public, 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 the exploitation of 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 for cybercriminals to send unsolicited messages via the manipulated devices. Although the name bluejacking implies that the hacker hijacks into the victims’ device, the reality of the situation is quite different, since the bluejacker only has enough power to send messages and interrupts the communication between two connected devices.
Using the 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 gain access to mobile commands on a sabotaged Bluetooth-enabled device. As the name suggests, bluebugging allows hackers to bug or eavesdrop into their victim’s mobile devices. Hackers may exploit the bugged Bluetooth device however they may please, although usually, hackers employ bluebugging to remotely control and intercept communication on mobile devices. Additionally, however, cybercriminals may also use bluebugging to send and read text messages, along with surveilling phone calls being sent to and from the mobile phone.
Although bluejacking and bluebugging are dangerous enough to cause a substantial amount of damage to a Bluetooth-enabled device, modern Bluetooth threats such as BlueBorne are far more damage-inducing than both of these hacking tactics combined.
First brought into the notice of the public around the end of 2017, the BlueBorne vulnerability was thought to be resolved in the multiple devices that 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 would, 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, but then that connection would be exploited by BlueBorne and require the user to perform a certain 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 exploits this phenomenon which effectively enables the cybercriminals to intercept and manipulate the data being exchanged 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 it, in one way or another. Taking into consideration the fact that 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 easier access to the confidential information of a whopping number of 8 billion users!
Taking into account the devastating aftermath of a data breach, particularly in the instance bluebugging where a hacker has access to all that goes on inside a victim’s phone, the need for better cybersecurity becomes quite evident. To further demonstrate, let’s consider an example where an individual trades in foreign exchange. 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 which is among the biggest mistakes traders made.
At the end of the article, we’d like to emphasize on the gap in the cybersecurity practices employed in enterprises today, which needs to focus on more menial aspects of security, which includes Bluetooth devices.