Many of us use Bluetooth technology for its convenience and sharing capabilities. Whether you’re using wireless headphones or quickly Airdropping photos to your friend, Bluetooth has a variety of benefits that users take advantage of every day. But like many other technologies, Bluetooth isn’t immune to cyberattacks. According to Ars Technica, researchers have recently discovered a weakness in the Bluetooth wireless standard that could allow attackers to intercept device keystrokes, contact lists, and other sensitive data sent from billions of devices.
The Key Negotiation of Bluetooth attack, or “KNOB” for short, exploits this weakness by forcing two or more devices to choose an encryption key just a single byte in length before establishing a Bluetooth connection, allowing attackers within radio range to quickly crack the key and access users’ data. From there, hackers can use the cracked key to decrypt data passed between devices, including keystrokes from messages, address books uploaded from a smartphone to a car dashboard, and photos.
What makes KNOB so stealthy? For starters, the attack doesn’t require a hacker to have any previously shared secret material or to observe the pairing process of the targeted devices. Additionally, the exploit keeps itself hidden from Bluetooth apps and the operating systems they run on, making it very difficult to spot the attack.
While the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (the body that oversees the wireless standard) has not yet provided a fix, there are still several ways users can protect themselves from this threat. Follow these tips to help keep your Bluetooth-compatible devices secure:
- Adjust your Bluetooth settings. To avoid this attack altogether, turn off Bluetooth in your device settings.
- Beware of what you share. Make it a habit to not share sensitive, personal information over Bluetooth.
- Turn on automatic updates. A handful of companies, including Microsoft, Apple, and Google, have released patches to mitigate this vulnerability. To ensure that you have the latest security patches for vulnerabilities such as this, turn on automatic updates in your device settings.