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Hacking into a smartphone via Bluetooth. Is it real?

Bluetooth devices are all around us: speakers, smartwatches and fitness bracelets, headphones. Because of this, we don’t turn off the function on our smartphone at all, leaving it constantly active. The devices share data with each other, uploading some parts to apps. At the same time, the Bluetooth connection is very vulnerable and could be the reason for hacking. What to do and how to protect yourself and your devices from data loss?

What are the dangers of Bluetooth being ON?

Bluetooth is useful in daily life but just as vulnerable as a Wi-Fi connection. Hackers use special programs that help detect active Bluetooth connections nearby. Not only can they see who is nearby, but they can also track which devices and networks your device has previously connected to. This is quite serious, as your device treats these connections as trusted, connecting to them automatically when they are nearby.

When hackers discover this kind of correlation and connectivity history, they’ll be able to fool your device with the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth they create. This allows them to download malware and track not only your location but also read your personal correspondence and card and account details. Have you come across something like this?

How Bluetooth is being hacked

This usually happens in crowded places (just analogous to the Wi-Fi story). Fraudsters calculate a plan of action in advance and prepare the device from which the hack will be made. A factory reset tablet or smartphone is usually suitable. The only thing in the way is a short distance, no more than 10-12 meters for a stable connection.

The attacker then tries to connect to the device with Bluetooth enabled. The victim’s phone starts to swear that someone is trying to connect to it from another device, but an error appears that the connection failed. This error is not random – the scammer is simply trying to confuse the victim while the phone is in their hands. While the person doesn’t realise what’s going on, the device becomes infected with malware. If you don’t disable Bluetooth in time, there will be problems: for example, the scammer can tap your phone or empty your bank account – it all depends on your ingenuity.

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Why disable Bluetooth

Bluetooth attacks are common. Attackers actively take advantage of it, so hacks can be divided into three types.

Bluejacking is an attack in which a fraudster uses the connection to break into a phone and send anonymous messages to other devices in the vicinity. Such attacks can be used to make expensive calls to other countries.

Bluesnarfing is a hack that involves stealing confidential information, such as Internet accounts, photos, and videos. This is all done very quickly, as long as there is an opportunity to ‘trigger’ it within reach.

Bluebugging is the worst-case scenario, in which an attacker has the ability to monitor your device, listen to your smartphone and access all the data in memory.

The data obtained can be used to blackmail or hack into bank accounts. The bad news is that there are more and more devices available every year, and attackers are coming up with more advanced hacking techniques.

Is Bluetooth secure?

An enabled Bluetooth module can be used to track a location. Two devices that connect to each other have a connection address. This changes when the battery runs out. But many devices store it permanently: fitness bracelets, for example. Attackers can easily use it to stay connected to the phone and receive accurate real-time data.

Despite all the vulnerabilities a wireless connection has, such hacking is very specific and not common. Hacking is only possible over a short distance. It will be more difficult to hack into a device when the owner is on the move – the attacker must try to get everything they need in a short amount of time. Moreover, such hacks require a great deal of preparation and skill. And the results of the hack may not be as impressive.

Although having Bluetooth turned on has virtually no effect on battery consumption, it’s still a good idea to turn it off when in public places.

  • Do not accept connection requests from unknown devices and do not connect to unknown locations.
  • Try to update the operating system in good time to ensure that the built-in security is up to date.
  • Do not give access to Bluetooth to all applications. Have any doubts? It’s better to revoke the permission in the settings.
  • On Android smartphones, use anti-virus software that detects and blocks strange connections.

Hacks over Bluetooth are quite rare, but it is worth remembering the danger that lies in wait for us everywhere. Don’t turn off Bluetooth? Think, what if it is still needed?

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