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What is bluebugging, and how is it used to hack Bluetooth-enabled devices?

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    3rd Dec, 2022


Cybersecurity experts have noted that specific apps that let users connect smartphones or laptops to wireless earplugs can record conversations, through a process called bluebugging.


About Bluebugging:

  • Background: Independent security researcher Martin Herfurt blogged about the threat of bluebugging as early as 2004.
  • Bluebugging is a technique that allows skilled hackers to access mobile commands on Bluetooth-enabled devices that are in discoverable mode.
  • Bluebugging is similar to phone eavesdropping, or bugging.
  • Once a connection is established, hackers can use “brute force attacks” to bypass authentication. It uses trial-and-error to guess login info, and encryption keys, or find a hidden web page.

Who are Vulnerable to bluebugging?

  • Devices on discoverable mode: Because discoverable mode is a default setting, most Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and devices are automatically vulnerable to bluebugging attacks.
    • Bluebugging can happen whenever a Bluetooth-enabled device is within a 10-meter radius of the hacker.
    • Hackers can use booster antennas to widen the attack range.
  • Devices not in discoverable mode: Certain tools - such as RedFang and BlueSniff - allow hackers to infiltrate Bluetooth-enabled devices that are not in discoverable mode.

How does bluebugging hack devices?

  • The hackers first try to pair with the device via Bluetooth.
  • Once a connection is established, hackers can use brute force attacks to bypass authentication.
    • A brute force attack uses trial-and-error to guess login info, and encryption keys, or find a hidden web page.
  • They can later install the malware in the compromised device to gain unauthorized access to it.

Ways to prevent:

  • Turning off Bluetooth and disconnecting paired Bluetooth devices when not in use
  • Updating the device’s system software to the latest version
  • Limiting the use of public Wi-Fi
  • Using VPN as an additional security measure
  • Monitor sudden spikes in data usage

Instances of Cyber-attack in India:

  • The number of cyberattacks on the Indian healthcare industry was the second highest globally in the segment.

Do you know?

Japan, Australia, and India were the most-attacked countries in Asia.

According to an IBM Security study, the cost of a data breach averaged Rs.17.6 crore in India in 2022, 6.6% higher as compared to Rs.16.5 crore last year.

  • 7 percent of the attacks on healthcare being witnessed in the country in 2021, according to cyber security intelligence firm CloudSEK.
  • CloudSEK is among the entities that provide cyber threat intelligence to the Indian cybersecurity watchdog CERT-In.
  • The recent AIIMS cyberattack exposes the vulnerability of Indian healthcare.
    • The cyberattack not only froze everyday work at AIIMS but also put the patients’ credentials in danger.

Challenges to tackle the menace:

  • Dependence on outdated or legacy infrastructure
  • Accelerated digital adoption, over a short span of time
  • Limited understanding of cyber security
  • Fragmented and unorganized cyber security infrastructure
  • Increasing instances of Social Engineering attacks
  • Attacks using emerging technology: Machine learning poisoning is one of the most prevalent methods used to attack ML (Machine Learning) systems. AI fuzzing is another tool primarily used to detect, identify and fix cyber-attack vulnerabilities.

Initiatives are taken by the Indian Government for Cyber Security:

  • Indian National Security Council: To shape the ecosystem related to cyber policy.
  • Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In): For alerts regarding Cybersecurity breaches and issues.
  • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C): To handle several issues regarding cybercrime in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
  • Cyber Swachhta Kendra: To create a secure cyberspace by detecting botnet infections in India
  • National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Center (NCIIPC): To protect critical information about our country, this has an enormous impact on national security, economic growth, and public health care.
  • Personal Data Protection Bill 2022: The Bill offers significant concessions on cross-border data flows, in a departure from the previous Bill’s contentious requirement of local storage of data within India’s geography.
  • National Cyber Security Policy, 2013: The Policy’s goal is to create safe and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses, and the Government.

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