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Design Flaw could Open Bluetooth Devices to Hacking

Consider a wearable health and fitness tracker, smart thermostat, smart speaker or smart home assistant

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Design, Bluetooth, Devices,
While the magnitude of that vulnerability varies, we found it to be a consistent problem among Bluetooth low energy devices when communicating with mobile apps. Pixabay

Be it a fitness tracker, smartwatch, smart speaker or smart home assistant, the way Bluetooth devices communicate with the mobile apps leaves room for hackers to steal sensitive personal information, new research has found.

An inherent design flaw makes mobile apps that work with Bluetooth Low Energy devices vulnerable to hacking, said the study described at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Computer and Communications Security held in London from November 11-15.

“There is a fundamental flaw that leaves these devices vulnerable — first when they are initially paired to a mobile app, and then again when they are operating,” said Zhiqiang Lin, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University in the US.

“While the magnitude of that vulnerability varies, we found it to be a consistent problem among Bluetooth low energy devices when communicating with mobile apps,” Lin added.

Design, Bluetooth, Devices,
An inherent design flaw makes mobile apps that work with Bluetooth Low Energy devices vulnerable to hacking, said the study described at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Computer and Communications Security held in London from November 11-15. Pixabay

Consider a wearable health and fitness tracker, smart thermostat, smart speaker or smart home assistant.

Each first communicates with the apps on your mobile device by broadcasting something called a UUID — a universally unique identifier.

That identifier allows the corresponding apps on your phone to recognise the Bluetooth device, creating a connection that allows your phone and device to talk to one another.

But that identifier itself is also embedded into the mobile app code. Otherwise, mobile apps would not be able to recognise the device. However, such UUIDs in the mobile apps make the devices vulnerable to a fingerprinting attack, the research team found.

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“At a minimum, a hacker could determine whether you have a particular Bluetooth device, such as a smart speaker, at your home, by identifying whether or not your smart device is broadcasting the particular UUIDs identified from the corresponding mobile apps,” Lin said.

“But in some cases in which no encryption is involved or encryption is used improperly between mobile apps and devices, the attacker would be able to ‘listen in’ on your conversation and collect that data.”

Still, that doesn’t mean you should throw your smartwatch away.

“We think the problem should be relatively easy to fix, and we’ve made recommendations to app developers and to Bluetooth industry groups,” he said.

Design, Bluetooth, Devices,
There is a fundamental flaw that leaves these devices vulnerable — first when they are initially paired to a mobile app, and then again when they are operating. Pixabay

If app developers tightened defences in that initial authentication, the problem could be resolved, Lin said.

The team reported their findings to developers of vulnerable apps and to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, and created an automated tool to evaluate all of the Bluetooth Low Energy apps in the Google Play Store – 18,166 at the time of their research.

In addition to building the databases directly from mobile apps of the Bluetooth devices in the market, the team’s evaluation also identified 1,434 vulnerable apps that allow unauthorised access. Their analysis did not include apps in the Apple Store.

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“It was alarming,” he said. “The potential for privacy invasion is high.” (IANS)

Next Story

Samsung Galaxy S11 May Feature The Punch Hole Display Design

The Galaxy S11 is not the only device rumoured to launch with a 120Hz display, OnePlus is also looking forward to launch its new smartphone with ultra-high refresh rate

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Samsung
Additionally, Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 865 chip, which will power the US variants of the Samsung Galaxy S11, is also expected to have enough horsepower to offer 8K video recording. Wikimedia Commons

Famed leakster Ice Universe had claimed that the next-gen  Samsung Device ‘Galaxy S11’ smartphone may feature the punch hole design, where the front-facing camera is expected to be similar with the Galaxy Note 10.

There are a lot of expectations with the upcoming Galaxy S11.

The upcoming Samsung Galaxy S11 smartphone will be available in three screen sizes – 6.4 or 6.2-inch being the smallest, mid-sized with 6.4-inch and 6.7-inch being the largest one, GSMArena reported recently.

It remains unclear if the smartphone will support 5G.

Recently, Ice universe tweeted screenshots of Samsung’s latest One UI beta update that insinuate the Galaxy S11 could receive a 120Hz display.

The Galaxy S11 is not the only device rumoured to launch with a 120Hz display, OnePlus is also looking forward to launch its new smartphone with ultra-high refresh rate.

Samsung
Famed leakster Ice Universe had claimed that the next-gen  Samsung Device ‘Galaxy S11’ smartphone may feature the punch hole design, where the front-facing camera is expected to be similar with the Galaxy Note 10. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Recently, a code in the APK file (the Android app software file) for Samsung’s camera app suggests that Galaxy S11 lineup would support 8K video recording.

The Exynos 990 chipset, which is expected to power the international variants of the device, features 8K@30fps video decoding/encoding capabilities.

ALSO READ: Top Things To Look For While Buying a Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Additionally, Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 865 chip, which will power the US variants of the S11, is also expected to have enough horsepower to offer 8K video recording. (IANS)