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Bluetooth vulnerability lets hackers access laptops, mobiles
September 17, 2017, 3:11 pm

Details of a new Bluetooth vulnerability that could potentially expose millions of devices to remote attack have come to light. Dubbed Blueborne, the attack works by masquerading as a Bluetooth device and exploiting weaknesses in the protocol to deploy malicious code, similar to the Broadcom Wi-Fi attack disclosed earlier this year.

Any iPhones running iOS 10 are immune to the attack, and Microsoft deployed a patch to fix the bug in July. Google says it sent a fix to device manufacturers a month ago, but when that patch actually reaches phones will depend on individual manufacturers. Google has also deployed a patch directly to Pixel devices, covering every Android version since Kit Kat.

However, there are a number of limits to the attack. While the underlying vulnerability exists in some form, the specific exploit varies from system to system, making it difficult to write a single virus that would be able to target every vulnerable device. Bluetooth itself limits the bug even further: Blueborne can only target devices within range of the hackers, and only devices with Bluetooth turned on.

Still, the broader implications of the bug are troubling. If a group is targeting a specific person, Bluetooth is a pretty good way to hack their phone, whether the group is using Blueborne or a more general vulnerability. Like any open standard, there are lots of known Bluetooth vulnerabilities, and if you are behind on updates and patches, there is a good chance you are vulnerable.

The simplest protection is to leave Bluetooth off, but since phones are still vulnerable when they are connected to a Bluetooth device, the only recommendation is not to use Bluetooth at all. As Bluetooth speakers get better, cheaper, and more popular, that could put the average consumer in a tricky place. As those devices become more widespread, bugs like Blueborne will only get more powerful, warn security experts.



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