Similar to smartphones and computers, Bluetooth is one of the modern-day pieces of tech that has spread wide and far. Billions of devices of all types around the world have the technology woven into their build. So when news about the BlueBorne vulnerabilities broke back in late 2017, everyone’s ears perked up. Fast forward to present day and a new Bluetooth flaw has emerged, which affects devices containing Bluetooth from a range of vendors—including Apple, Intel, Google, Broadcom, and Qualcomm.
Whether it’s connecting your phone to a speaker so you can blast your favorite tunes, or pairing it with your car’s audio system so you can make phone calls hands-free, the pairing capabilities of Bluetooth ensures the technology remains wireless. And this bug affects precisely that — Bluetooth’s Secure Simple Pairing and Low Energy Secure Connections, which are capabilities within the tech designed to assist users with pairing devices in a safe and secure way.
Essentially, this vulnerability means that when data is sent from device to device over Bluetooth connections, it is not encrypted, and therefore vulnerable. And with this flaw affecting Apple, Google and Intel-based smartphones and PCs, that means millions of people may have their private data leaked. Specifically, the bug allows an attacker that’s within about 30 meters of a user to capture and decrypt data shared between Bluetooth-paired devices.
Lior Neumann, one of the researchers who found the bug, stated, “As far as we know, every Android—prior to the patch published in June—and every device with a wireless chip from Intel, Qualcomm or Broadcom is vulnerable.” That includes iPhone devices with a Broadcom or Qualcomm chip as well.
Fortunately, fixes for this bug within Apple devices have already been available since May with the release of iOS 11.4. Additionally, two Android vendors, Huawei and LG, say they have patched the vulnerability as well. However, if you don’t see your vendor on this list, or if you have yet to apply the patches – what next steps should you take to secure your devices? Start by following these tips:
- Turn Bluetooth off unless you have to use it. Affected software providers have been notified of these vulnerabilities and are working on fixing them as we speak. But in the meantime, it’s crucial you turn off your Bluetooth unless you absolutely must use it. To do this on iOS devices, simply go to your “Settings”, select “Bluetooth” and toggle it from on to off. On Android devices, open the “Settings” app and the app will display a “Bluetooth” toggle button under the “Wireless and networks” subheading that you can use to enable and disable the feature.
- Update your software immediately. It’s an important security rule of thumb: always update your software whenever an update is available, as security patches are usually included with each new version. Patches for iOS and some Android manufacturers are already available, but if your device isn’t on the list, fear not – security patches for additional providers are likely on their way.