Bluetooth is an amazingly useful wireless technology built into almost every smartphone, tablet and laptop. We can use it to transfer files, play audio wirelessly, collect health data from wearable trackers and more. But like WiFi, Bluetooth is being targeted by hackers as a way to break into your devices and steal personal data.

Because it is so useful, most of us keep Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled on our devices all the time. However, this could be making us potential targets of ‘bluebugging’, a technique to attack your device through Bluetooth.

How does Bluetooth hacking work?

Hackers use specialised software which automatically detects nearby devices equipped with Bluetooth. They can also see which networks your device has previously connected to; this is important because your phone treats these networks as trusted and will connect to them automatically in future.

If the cybercriminals can replicate a trusted network, they can trick your device into connecting to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices that they control. The hackers can then bombard your device with malware, spy on you and even steal your data from your text messages and apps.

What else could happen?

Once a smartphone has been compromised, the hacker can intercept and redirect phone calls, access bank details, send or receive files or simply watch what you are doing in real time.

Where can this occur?

Bluebugging is often performed in busy public places, often where there are a lot of routine commuters. Choosing a busy place allows them to remain undetected and to monitor the same devices which pass by regularly. Hackers may also choose places where people linger for several hours like cafes, pubs and restaurants.

What does bluebugging look like?

Dorset Police recently discovered an instance of bluebugging in the busy seaside town of Bournemouth. Local residents began reporting incidents where they were receiving automated messages and files from unknown senders as they walked through the city.

Early investigations suggest that the unknown files were malware, designed to break into the recipients’ phones and steal data.

What can you do to keep safe?

Dorset Police issued some guidance to Bournemouth residents – advice that we can all use to avoid becoming victims of bluebugging.

First, disable Bluetooth on your devices whenever it is not in use. Second, disable file-sharing services that rely on Bluetooth like AirDrop or Fast Share unless you are sending or receiving files from a trusted friend.

Limiting access to Bluetooth services makes it much harder (if not impossible) to be a victim of bluebugging.

Finally, ensure you have an antimalware app installed on your smartphone, tablet and Bluetooth-enabled computers. In the event that a hacker does try to break into your device, the antimalware app will detect and block suspicious activity, protecting your privacy and personal data.

Fortunately, bluebugging attacks are still not very common – but that could quickly change. Take action to protect yourself today by downloading a copy of Panda Free Antivirus – it’s completely free!