Beware, Bluetooth Can Bite

Schwartz, Ephraim
July 2004
InfoWorld;7/26/2004, Vol. 26 Issue 30, p10
Trade Publication
The article assesses the vulnerability of bluetooth-enabled devices. There is a Bluetooth security specification, but it is an option most manufacturers choose not to enable. Unless the manufacturer states somewhere on the box that security is enabled in its product, you have no way of knowing. It would require much more work on both the manufacturer's and user's part to ensure that the Bluetooth device can share data only with your personal computer. Indeed, manufacturers often open everything up so it is discoverable by any device, a condition known as promiscuous mode. A device that authenticates to a Bluetooth cell phone can read any data that is on the handset. Even with security enabled, there are problem areas. The security protocol, when invoked, sets up a key exchange in which the keys are transmitted over the air, making them vulnerable to interception. Each device also has a Bluetooth pass code. But in many embedded devices, such as Global Position System receivers, that number is only four digits long and is hard-coded into the device. A headset or keyboard manufacturer's security code will be the same for all of that company's products. The medium is also seldom encrypted. Therefore, a Bluetooth headset linked to a Bluetooth phone gives a hacker the ability to see everything being sent between the two devices.


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