Bluetooth-toting workers vulnerable to data attacks


Bluetooth-toting workers vulnerable to data attacks

Bill Goodwin

Businesses are at risk of losing confidential data to hackers as office workers leave their Bluetooth-enabled PDAs and mobile phones unsecured.

A survey of commuters in three central London railway stations found that one in 10 were travelling with mobile devices that were wide open to eavesdropping by hackers.

An engineer from security company Orthus, armed with a laptop computer and a free Linux software tool, was able to identify unsecured data held on hundreds of mobile devices as commuters headed home.

Out of 943 devices identified at the three  stations, 379 had been left on their default security settings and 138 were vulnerable to hacking attacks, known as bluesnarfing.

Personal data including voice messages, address books, e-mails and diaries stored on the mobile devices was extremely vulnerable to theft or manipulation, the firm said. 

Orthus managing director Richard Hollis said hackers could download the data or change it across open Bluetooth channels without the owners realising.

The devices were also at risk from mobile viruses that propagate through Bluetooth connections.

About half of the mobile devices left on the manufacturers' default settings were vulnerable to Bluesnarfing, the research revealed.

“Corporations need to consider adding PDA and mobile phone policies to their corporate security policies and making sure their staff have been educated,” said Hollis. "There should be a written policy."


To protect against bluesnarfing

  • Don’t enable Bluetooth unless it is required
  • Personalise the Bluetooth device name so it does not contain model or manufacturing information
  • Only enable Bluetooth services you intend to use
  • If you need to leave Bluetooth enabled, ensure the visibility settings prohibit third parties from identifying the device

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