Feeds

Bluetooth is attack vector for mobile phones

Real vulns, serious too

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Seven Steps to Software Security

Security researchers have uncovered a serious flaw in the authentication and data transfer mechanisms in some Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones.

Data including a user's entire phonebook and calendar could be nicked from a range of Nokia and Ericsson phones using what researchers Adam and Ben Laurie of A.L. Digital describe as a "SNARF" attack.

They have written a paper warning how confidential data could be stolen from some Bluetooth enabled mobile phones.

"It is possible, on some makes of device, to connect to the device without alerting the owner of the target device of the request, and gain access to restricted portions of the stored data therein, including the entire phonebook," the paper states. "This is normally only possible if the device is in 'discoverable' or 'visible' mode, but there are tools available on the Internet that allows even this safety net to be bypassed."

Ericsson T68s, T68is and T610s, along with Nokia 6310is and 7650s are vulnerable to the exploit whilst in 'visible' mode, according to A.L. Digital's preliminary research.

Look out for that backdoor!

Nokia 3610is are vulnerable to a second, even more invasive attack. The memory on this phone (and some other models) can be accessed by a previously trusted ("paired") device that has since been removed from the trusted list. By exploiting this vulnerability an attacker is able to copy all the information on a targeted device, including media files such as pictures and text messages. This backdoor attack could also permit phreakers to access Internet or GRPS services without a user's knowledge or consent, A.L. Digital warns.

The media spotlight has recently fallen on bluejacking: the technique of anonymously sending messages to users of other Bluetooth-enabled devices who have switched on the technology and made their handset 'visible' to other users in the immediate vicinity.

Bluejacking creates a means to send unexpected, unsolicited messages to users even in areas where there is no network coverage. This can all be innocent fun but A.L. Digital warns that bluejacking may also be used by attackers as a means to trick users into pairing with an attacker, exposing users to further (more serious) attacks.

Wake up call

In the interests of full disclosure, A.L. Digital has published a paper on the security shortcomings of bluetooth without waiting for manufacturers to develop security fixes. A.L. Digital said it did this because it believes that it is more important to "alert the general public to the fact that the problem exists, and to give them the information required to adequately defend themselves".

A.L. Digital advises users to set their device to "invisible" or can simply shut off Bluetooth when not using it. "To permanently remove a pairing, and protect against future backdoor attacks, it seems you must perform a factory reset, but this will, of course, erase all your personal data," it adds.

In order to validate its research, A.L. Digital has developed a number of proof of concept tools which it is prepared to share with manufacturers - but not with the Internet community at large. ®

External Links

Serious flaws in bluetooth security lead to disclosure of personal data, paper by A.L. Digital

Related Stories

Bluetooth boom spawns 'bluejacking'
Verizon text tapping bug run to ground
SMS phone crash exploit a risk for older Nokias
How to crash a phone by SMS
Mobile phone Java risks 'minimal'
In the event of nuclear attack, your data is safe (story about A.L. Digital’s ‘Bunker’ storage facility)

Related Products
Get all your Bluetooth gear from The Reg mobile store

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.