A cool thing about Person of Interest, a popular television show, is it’s depiction of how easily mobile devices can be broken into. On a typical day, John Reese (played by Jim Cviezel) would walk by the person of interest, tap a few times on his phone and gets full access to the target’s mobile device. Until three days back this was fiction. Today it’s not. Thanks to BlueBorne. Watch the following video if you don’t believe me.
On 13th September, 2017, Armis, a US-based security lab, published a research article titled, BlueBorne. In this article they have explained eight flaws through which a mobile device can be compromised. They have termed these flaws as BlueBorne. These flaws exist in the way Bluetooth functionality is applied in mobile devices. As a result, an ill willed hacker can take full control of the device without any action on the part of the user. When using these flaws the hacker doesn’t even need to pair their device with the target mobile device. This makes BlueBorne a dangerous attacking technique. Imagine, you’re walking in a local market with your mobile device in pocket. If your device’s Bluetooth is enabled, then anyone who can detect your device can, potentially, take control of your device. Of course, they would need the knowledge and skills to take advantage of these flaws.
BlueBorne flaws exist in all devices that are equipped with Bluetooth and running Android, iOS (9.3.3 and below), Windows (Vista and above) and Linux operating systems. At the time of writing there are approximately 8.2 billion such devices across the world.
How to protect your device?
Here are few steps you can take to protect your device from these flaws:
- Keep your mobile device’s Bluetooth disabled if not required.
- If you have an Android device, you can check if it’s vulnerable using this app released by ArmisLabs.
- Update your mobile device to the latest version of the operating system released by the device manufacturer.
- If an update is not available for your mobile device:
- Avoid using device’s Bluetooth capability in public places
Uday Mittal (OSCP, Associate CISSP, DCPP) is the founder of Yaksas CSC. He has over 4 years of experience in dealing with various issues related to cyber security. He is actively working towards educating people on cyber security risks and steps to mitigate them. He’s also a member of (ISC)2, ISACA and DSCI.