The term “bluesnarfing” was created by fusing the phrases “Bluetooth” and “snarfing,” which programmers use to describe stealing data from a network without authorization. Bluetooth is a wireless technology that enables devices to communicate across short distances using radio waves. Bluetooth reduces the need for wires to connect devices. For example, it enables users to connect their smartphones to various devices without wires. These devices, including earphones, laptops, speakers, vehicle stereos, fitness trackers, smartwatches, and even headphones, use Bluetooth technology to connect to smartphones. Unbeknownst to many users who frequently have Bluetooth on, this useful technology can be the weak spot cybercriminals use to access systems and launch cyberattacks. Bluesnarfing is one method used by cybercriminals in their attacks to exploit Bluetooth.
What Is Bluesnarfing?
Bluesnarfing is a cyberattack in which an attacker exploits device security vulnerabilities in a victim’s Bluetooth connection to obtain access to the victim’s device and steal sensitive data. Bluesnarfing focuses on exploiting a vulnerability in Bluetooth’s Object Exchange (OBEX) protocol. Bluetooth-enabled devices communicate with one another using this protocol. Therefore, a device’s Bluetooth feature must be on, and the device must be set to be discoverable by other devices within range for a bluesnarfing attack to occur. To gain access to the device, usually a phone, an attacker must first pair with it. After gaining access, the attacker can access data, including emails, contacts, photographs, and passwords.
Attackers can create a replica of the compromised phone in a bluesnarfing attack by downloading all the data from the victim’s phone to their device. Sensitive data in a victim’s device may be sold to other attackers on the dark web, used to scam victims, perform identity theft, and perpetrate financial fraud. Bluesnarfing also allows attackers to install malware on a device and access and steal sensitive data. Even worse, Bluesnarfing might provide attackers access to a victim’s device’s message and calling features.
This implies that attackers can use a victim’s phone to contact and message other people or redirect calls and messages received to the victim’s phone to a different number. Things can easily spiral out of control for a victim at this point. Because of the victim’s lack of awareness, an attacker can trick the victim’s contacts through calls and messages. Also, disclosing confidential information to a victim’s contacts or approaching them for money while acting as the victim might damage the victim’s reputation.
In the worst-case scenario, the attacker may utilize the victim’s phone for kidnapping or terrorist purposes. The attacker can use a bluesnarfing victim’s phone to make calls and send messages to victims of terrorism or kidnapping. This enables the attacker to remain anonymous while engaging with victims, such as when demanding a ransom. The bluesnarfing attack victim’s phone will be assumed to be the source of the calls and messages. Furthermore, attackers might utilize a victim’s phone to make pricey overseas calls, costing their victims money. In a bluesnarfing attack, victims are unaware that attackers have acquired access to their device, allowing for repeated attacks.
The first significant security problem associated with Bluetooth technology, Bluesnarfing, was initially identified in 2003. Marcel Holtmann, a researcher examining Bluetooth’s security, identified that Bluesnarfing might have been used to hack them in September 2003. Adam Laurie separately identified the same security weakness in Bluetooth devices in November of the same year. Adam contacted the device makers with the vulnerability disclosure and detailed the vulnerabilities discovered with Bluetooth-enabled devices. Adam’s activities made Bluesnarfing known to the general public.
Adam notes in his vulnerability disclosure that he discovered significant weaknesses in the authentication and data transfer methods on various Bluetooth-enabled devices. The first vulnerability he discovered was that some Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones allowed for anonymous data acquisition without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Second, Adam pointed out that previously paired devices that have subsequently been unpaired might access the whole memory contents of some mobile phones.
Martin Herfurt, who collaborated with Adam to find the final vulnerability, discovered that Bluesnarfing could be used to access data, voice, and message services. Hackers have been creating software to exploit the vulnerabilities in Bluetooth-enabled devices ever since Bluesnarfing was made public in 2003. Bluediving, which discovers vulnerable devices and offers tools to exploit their vulnerabilities, is one of the most popular bluesnarfing techniques.
Relationship Between Bluesnarfing & Bluejacking
Bluejacking and Bluesnarfing are two types of cyber attacks that involve Bluetooth technology. Yet, they involve various types of attacks and impact the victim. Bluejacking is an attack in which an attacker exploits Bluetooth technology to deliver illegal messages or data to a victim’s Bluetooth-enabled device. This might include messages that seem to originate from the victim’s device or messages that seem to come from an unknown device. Because Bluejacking normally does not harm the victim seriously, it is generally regarded as a low-level danger.
A more dangerous attack known as Bluesnarfing occurs when an attacker obtains unauthorized access to a victim’s Bluetooth-enabled device and takes sensitive data from it. The attacker may use this information for illegal activities like financial fraud or identity theft. Bluesnarfing attacks can seriously injure the victim, resulting in financial losses and reputational ruin. Bluejacking and Bluesnarfing are separate attacks with different goals and impacts, even though they involve Bluetooth technology.
How Is Bluesnarfing Done?
As Bluetooth has a limited range of roughly 30 feet or 10 meters, an attacker must first be near their victims without employing specialized tools. Bluesnarfers frequently target locations with many people, such as shopping malls, railway stations, and amusement parks. An attacker must exploit vulnerabilities in a Bluetooth-enabled device’s information-sharing object exchange (OBEX) protocol to carry out a bluesnarfing attack. In the past, attackers would search for discoverable Bluetooth devices within their range and attempt pairing with them if a PIN did not protect them.
With software like Bluediving, which offers tools for Bluesnarfing, things are a lot simpler now. In a bluesnarfing protocol attack with Bluediving, an attacker starts Bluediving, which analyzes and detects devices having an OBEX protocol vulnerability. The attacks then use Bluetooth to pair with the vulnerable devices. Bluediving exploits existing vulnerabilities in the victim’s OBEX protocol following pairing, granting the attacker access to the victim’s device. Without the victim realizing anything is wrong, the attacker can grab data from the victim’s device and attack their phone and IMEI numbers using Bluediving.
How To Prevent Bluesnarfing?
Use the following advice to stay safe and prevent falling victim to Bluesnarfing.
Switch Off Bluetooth
According to Adam Laurie, the best approach to stop Bluesnarfing, who initially discovered it and issued a vulnerability disclosure on it, is to switch off Bluetooth completely. Even though time has gone since then, the phrase is still accurate. For a bluesnarfing attack to be successful, the attacker must have Bluetooth. Turning off Bluetooth disconnects it from your device. Although this may seem like an excessive measure, it works. To protect your device against attacks, switch off Bluetooth while not in use.
Switch Off The Device’s Bluetooth Discoverability Option
To allow other devices to find and connect to them, Bluetooth devices are, by default, set to be discoverable. But, you may switch off this default behavior from your Bluetooth settings, making your device hidden or undiscoverable. This prevents other devices from pairing with your phone but does not necessarily switch off Bluetooth. This may aid in preventing attacks.
It is important to remember that while this technique lowers the likelihood of an attack, Bluesnarfing is still possible. Using this technique, a device’s MAC (Media Access Control) address, which Bluetooth devices use to identify and communicate, is essentially concealed. But, dedicated attackers can use brute force to discover the MAC address in a bluesnarfing attack.
Secure Device With A Multi-factor Authentication
To verify their identities and get access to a system or service, users must first complete a multi-factor authentication (MFA) procedure. MFA adds an extra layer of defense against cyberattacks by making it more difficult for unauthorized users to access a system or service.
Ensuring that only confirmed users are permitted to connect via the device’s Bluetooth can be especially helpful in avoiding Bluesnarfing. When combined with secure PINs and passwords, this is effective. Configure your device to demand passwords before connecting to other devices. If attackers get access to your device via Bluesnarfing, multi-factor authentication will also aid in damage control because they will be limited in what they can access.
Don’t Pair With Unknown Devices
Avoid pairing Bluetooth devices with unfamiliar ones to prevent Bluesnarfing. To go even further, don’t accept pairing requests you didn’t start because they may be from an attacker. Verify the device you are about to pair with as well since attackers might trick you into pairing with their device by using well-known names. Finally, avoid pairing Bluetooth devices for the first time in open spaces when many other Bluetooth devices are accessible. This prevents an attacker from using your permission to hijack the process and pair it with your device.
Regularly Update Device
For their devices, phone manufacturers frequently provide software updates and fixes. This may be done to address system vulnerabilities, giving users enhanced security for their devices. Install software updates as soon as they are available as a user. Also, compared to previous devices, current ones are better protected from Bluesnarfing. To reduce bluesnarfing attacks, it is advised that you get more recent and cutting-edge devices.
The Bottom Line:
Bluesnarfing is still a lethal cyberattack despite its limited attack range. With so many people keeping private information on their smartphones, a bluesnarfing attack might open the door to more significant intrusions using stolen credentials from the victim’s phone. By accessing and disclosing private information or by using someone else’s phone to make calls and send messages without their knowledge or consent, Bluesnarfing may also be used to damage someone’s reputation. Consequently, it is advisable to take all necessary precautions to safeguard oneself against Bluesnarfing. Users of Bluetooth-enabled devices can keep one step ahead of bluesnarfing attackers by taking the actions and safeguards discussed in this article. Remember that it is preferable to avert an attack than to deal with its effects.