Bluetooth Attacks: Hollywood vs Reality

You may have seen the episode from the first season of Mr. Robot where Elliot gains remote access to a wireless keyboard inside a police car in an effort to infiltrate a nearby prison network. While this scene does move quickly and glazes over a lot of specifics, it makes a valid point: wireless devices connected via Bluetooth come with a certain level of risk.

Bluetooth forms a P2P connection in order to allow for wireless communication between devices. Through this connection, Bluetooth can be used to link mobile devices to a car’s speaker system, tether a laptop to your cellular data network, connect keyboards, mice, headphones, smart locks, and much more. However, through the use of open source tools, anyone who is remotely tech savvy can start sniffing Bluetooth packets. Tools such as BTScanner and Carwhisperer can be used to listen in on telephone calls, control SMS, keyboards, and mouse functionality, even unlock your front door, all as long as they are within a 300-foot radius.

Bluetooth is secured with a pin, which is often standardized by manufacturers. Pins can be changed on some, but not all devices. Tools used to spy on Bluetooth communication can often identify the manufacturer of device based just a few bytes from its address. From there, the default pin, which is often 0000, 1111, or 1234, can easily be deduced.

However, Bluetooth users do have a few ways to defend themselves against these types of attacks. First, if your device allows it, it is recommended that you change the default pin to something more difficult to guess. Manufacturers are also encouraged to configure their devices with more unique pins than those listed above. In fact, many devices found inside motor vehicles are already doing this. Switch Bluetooth off when it’s not in use. Some devices also have an option to go to sleep if a certain amount of time has passed since its last approved connection. Enable this option, if it’s available.

Unlike the prevention of some other types of wireless threats, basic prevention of Bluetooth attacks can be a very uncomplicated process. Researching which devices are more at risk for this type of attack and regular monitoring of wireless bills and data usage are also satisfactory methods of detection and prevention. So, while Mr. Robot might have downplayed the complexity required to hack into a prison network, the part about the Bluetooth attack was more or less realistic and something we should all carry with us as a lesson.

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  1. Mr. Robot is an amazing show and I really enjoyed the first season. I enjoyed the second one as well but I feel like they are gonna drag the story out for ratings and not because it is warranted.

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