Countermeasures against common Bluetooth security attacks


Bluetooth is a wireless technology capable of much more than just eliminating data cables between devices. This technology has been considered a cheap, reliable, and power-efficient replacement of cables for connecting electronic devices.

Several cables, including those typically used for peripheral devices (such as mouse and keyboard connections), printers, and wireless headsets and earbuds that interface with personal computers (PCs) or mobile phones, are replaced by Bluetooth technology.

A Bluetooth-supported device can form a piconet to support file-sharing capabilities with other Bluetooth devices, such as laptops. Bluetooth provides automatic synchronization between Bluetooth-enabled devices. For example, Bluetooth allows the synchronization of contact information in electronic address books and calendars.

A Bluetooth device with Internet access can give other Bluetooth devices access. For instance, a laptop and mobile phone can connect via Bluetooth to set up a dial-up connection and access the Internet via the phone.

Common risks

Bluetooth provides numerous advantages and advantages, but there is risk involved. Due to numerous vulnerabilities, Bluetooth security is vulnerable to new attacks because it is a relatively new wireless technology. Bluetooth technology and related devices make them vulnerable to common wireless networking threats like Bluesnarf, denial of service attacks, eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, message tampering, and resource theft.

Here is a list of attacks that have been launched at Bluetooth:

  • SNARF attack – Only phones configured in “discovery” or “visible” mode on the network are typically vulnerable to this attack.
  • BACKDOOR attack – Another security infringement, it operates by setting up an unauthorized connection to the target’s phone.
  • Bluebug attack – It is an attack that establishes a serial connection with the phone and gives access to every AT command that is present. This enables the attacker to connect to internet data services, make and receive phone calls, and send and receive messages.
  • BLUEJACKING – Unlike the previous attacks, BLUEJACKING does not allow an adversary access to any data. Instead, it is possible to send a user a message using a small loophole in the Bluetooth pairing process.
  • WARNIBBLING – In this attack, a hacker looks for and gains access to as many vulnerable Bluetooth devices as possible.

Risk mitigation and countermeasures

To mitigate risks, organizations should apply countermeasures which can be achieved through security features built into the Bluetooth specifications. To be effective, Bluetooth security should be incorporated throughout the entire lifecycle of Bluetooth solutions.

However, these countermeasures do not guarantee a secure Bluetooth environment and cannot prevent all adversary penetrations. In addition, security comes at a cost—expenses related to security equipment, inconvenience, maintenance, and operation.

Each organization should evaluate the acceptable level of risk based on numerous factors which will affect the level of security implemented by that organization. The first line of defense is to provide adequate knowledge and understanding for those who will deal with Bluetooth-enabled devices. Organizations using Bluetooth technology should establish and document security policies addressing Bluetooth-enabled devices’ use and users’ responsibilities.

Organizations should include awareness-based education to support staff’s understanding and knowledge of Bluetooth. Policy documents should include a list of approved uses for Bluetooth and the type of information that may be transferred over Bluetooth networks.

The security policy should also specify a proper password usage scheme. When feasible, a centralized security policy management approach should be used in coordination with an endpoint security product installed on Bluetooth devices to ensure that the policy is locally and universally enforced.

Security checklist

Here we provide a Bluetooth security checklist with guidelines and recommendations for creating and maintaining secure Bluetooth piconets:

  • A wireless security policy for the organization that covers Bluetooth technology needs to be developed.
  • Ensure Bluetooth users on the network are aware of their obligations concerning security when using Bluetooth.
  • To fully comprehend the Bluetooth security posture of the organization, thorough security assessments must be conducted regularly.
  • Ensure Bluetooth-enabled wireless devices and networks are thoroughly comprehended from an architectural standpoint and properly documented.
  • To better prevent the theft of handheld Bluetooth devices, users should be given a list of precautions.
  • Adjust the Bluetooth device’s default settings to comply with the company’s security guidelines.
  • Bluetooth devices should be set to the very least necessary and adequate power level to ensure that transmissions stay inside the organization’s secure perimeter.
  • Pick PINs that are sufficiently long and random. Avoid PINs with static or low security, like all zeros.
  • Users should immediately unpair any Bluetooth devices they have paired with the missing device in case they are lost or stolen.
  • Install antivirus software on Bluetooth-enabled hosts that are frequently the targets of malware.
  • Bluetooth software patches and upgrades must be routinely deployed and thoroughly tested.
  • Users shouldn’t accept any transmissions from unauthorized or unknown devices. Messages, files, and images all fall under this category of transmission.