BlueBorne Bluetooth Vulnerability Hits Massive Swathe Of Devices

Isaac Cain
September 13, 2017

The attack essentially takes advantage of how Bluetooth uses tethering to share data and is able to spread through "improper validation". And devices running Bluetooth turn out to be fairly easy to identify with network sniffing tools, even when set to be non-discoverable. Current Apple operating systems are not vulnerable to the attack, but older iOS systems are.

The Bluetooth Pineapple vulnerability allows an attacker to create a MITM attack using only a Bluetooth-connected device and no special equipment, which is often required for Wi-Fi interception.

BlueBorne - WannaCry of the Bluetooth world?

"These vulnerabilities are the most serious Bluetooth vulnerabilities identified to date", an Armis spokesperson told Bleeping Computer via email.

Given that some of these flaws have been present in Bluetooth for a decade, Izrael said, "We do fear that in some sense these vulnerabilities might have been found before by some actors and used". "The vulnerabilities found in Wi-Fi chips affect only the peripherals of the device, and require another step to take control of the device". Spreading from device to device through the air also makes BlueBorne highly infectious.

The other wildcard here: Linux-based devices. Armis reported the vulnerabilities to Google, Microsoft, and the Linux community. Some patches are being developed and will be released today and in the coming days and weeks.

"In theory, to be safe on these devices, Bluetooth needs to be disabled until a patch is applied", said Mark James, an expert at cybersecurity firm ESET. Armis estimates this number at around 40% of all Bluetooth-enabled devices, which is over two billion devices. As he makes deliveries to different locations, including relatively secure ones such as banks, BlueBorne is able to spread to multiple Bluetooth devices.

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All Android phones, tablets, and wearables of all versions are affected by the four above mentioned vulnerabilities. "When exploits like these are found on technology that is integrated into nearly every device we use, it's a real concern". Microsoft released an update today to all Windows versions that closes the vulnerability, with details listed here. Microsoft said Windows phones are not impacted by BlueBorne.

Microsoft is expected to issue its regular set of patches on Tuesday, including a notification about an already deployed Bluetooth fix, which according to Seri was issued in July without any notice, to allow other vendors time to respond. Samsung's Tizen OS, based on Linux, is also affected.

Apple iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch with iOS version 9.3.5 and earlier are vulnerable to the BlueBorne flaws.

Unlike traditional cyberattacks, the Bluetooth method doesn't need a victim to fall for a malware-ridden link or download a booby-trapped document. Like any open standard, there are lots of known Bluetooth vulnerabilities, and if you're behind on updates and patches, there's a good chance you're vulnerable.

While using Bluetooth is a canny way to automatically infiltrate user devices without permission, it means BlueBorne is bound by the signal frequency's short range, and only affects devices with Bluetooth turned on.

Armis has also released a detailed technical whitepaper on the flaws.

Android and Linux systems can be tricked into revealing information stored in memory to a nearby malicious device. One such example is Cabir. Bluetooth worms have existed in the past and have caused many problems, especially for mobile carriers.

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