Bluetooth cracking tools released

There are fundamental security weaknesses in the Bluetooth wireless specification, programmer says

German programmers have released two tools aimed at compromising Bluetooth devices, including PCs, at the Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin.

Enterprises generally ignore Bluetooth from a security point of view, but should be aware that there are fundamental security weaknesses in the wireless specification, according to Thierry Zoller, who introduced the tools at the conference on Friday.

Zoller, a security consultant, developed BTCrack, an implementation of a flaw disclosed in 2005 by Israeli security researchers. The tool takes advantage of weak PINs in Bluetooth devices, allowing an attacker to listen in on a pairing session and gain access to both paired devices.

HID Attack is a proof-of-concept exploit for hijacking a Bluetooth keyboard using the Human Interface Device (HID) standard. The attack could allow access to sensitive systems, according to developer Collin Mulliner, who said he came across the problem by accident while developing a software keyboard.

"The threat potential is high, it basically is like getting physical access to the target system," Mulliner said in a paper released in connection with Zoller's talk.

However, several practical obstacles mean that carrying out an attack is difficult, he acknowledged. Not all HID hosts implement server mode, which is necessary for the attack, and the fact that the screen might not be visible adds more complications.

And there's the main issue limiting all Bluetooth attacks - that they must be carried out at close range.

However, the BTCrack and HID Attack show that such attacks are far from theoretical, Zoller said in his talk.

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