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Bluebugging: do you know about this Bluetooth security risk?

Bluebugging is a hacking technique where computer security hackers access a device with a discoverable Bluetooth connection. Here's how you can stay safe

Hackers are finding new ways to gain access to your devices. The latest in line of vulnerabilities is the Bluetooth connection on your smartphone or laptop. (Unsplash)

By Nitin Sreedhar

LAST PUBLISHED 30.11.2022  |  03:06 PM IST

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Hackers are finding new ways to gain access to your devices. The latest in line of vulnerabilities is the Bluetooth connection on your smartphone or laptop. Bluebugging is a sophisticated hacking technique where computer security hackers access a device with a discoverable Bluetooth connection.

What can hackers do once this happens? According to Techslang, an online technology awareness platform designed to disentangle complex concepts and educate people about tech, once a target device accesses a rigged link, attackers can take full control of it. The hacker can read and send messages, access the victim’s phonebook, and initiate or eavesdrop on phone calls, the Techslang website adds.

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US cybersecurity company Norton describes Bluebugging as a type of attack in which a cybercriminal gains backdoor access to your device using a secret Bluetooth connection. According to a Norton blog, a hacker can spy on you and access your private data thanks to bluebugging. In some cases, cybercriminals may even use this information to impersonate you.

The problem is, this is not the only Bluetooth-related security risk out there. Bluesnarfing, Bluejacking (when a Bluetooth device sends unsolicited spam and phishing messages to another Bluetooth device), and Bluesmacking (a denial of service or DoS attack designed to overwhelm your device and force a shutdown) are some of the other most common Bluetooth security vulnerabilities today.

But just like how connecting to your favorite wireless headphones via Bluetooth or transferring files over Bluetooth is an easy thing to do, there are some simple steps which you can follow to steer clear of these risks. According to Norton, here are 7 security tips on how to safely use Bluetooth.

1. Keep your operating system up to date: a device with an outdated operating system is an easy target for a Bluetooth hacker.

2. Make sure your device is not discoverable: One simple way to reduce your risk of being targeted in a Bluetooth attack is to make your device not discoverable. By doing so, it will be much harder for a hacker to ever find your device, the Norton blog explains.

3. Avoid sharing sensitive information over Bluetooth: This way, if you encounter a Bluetooth hacker, your chances of them intercepting your private information are lessened

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4. Be careful who you connect with: Refuse or block any and all unknown connection requests. In some instances, these requests could be a hacker posing as someone else in hopes to access your Bluetooth device.

5. Turn Bluetooth off when not in use: This is something we all do all the time: forgetting to switch off our Bluetooth when not in use. “Always shut your Bluetooth off whenever you aren’t using it. Think of it like locking your door once you leave the house," the blog adds.

6. Don't set up pairing in public: If you’re pairing two devices for the first time, be sure to do so from a secure location. Pairing devices in public can allow hackers to hijack the pairing process and connect to your device.

7. Delete unused Bluetooth connections: You’ll be astonished to see the long list of Bluetooth connections on your smartphone, for instance, you have used in the past, but forgot to delete them. As a Bluetooth security best practice, get in the habit of deleting any old Bluetooth pairings from your device. While the chances of an old connection being dangerous are slim, it still doesn’t hurt to remove it from your device, the Norton blog adds.

Also read: How to protect your phone from malware and cybercriminals