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How to tell if your Bluetooth is hacked.

Bluetooth is often targeted by hackers as a way to discreetly send malicious data to our smartphones and tablets. So, in the same way that you might be mindful of picking up nasty infections over Wi-Fi, it’s important to be just as careful about what’s going on with your Bluetooth connections.

It can be very difficult to identify a Bluetooth attack as it happens, since the methods used by today’s Bluetooth phone hackers are carefully designed to be unrecognizable. Bluetooth phone hacking is usually only discovered after the hack has taken place.

To recognize if you’ve fallen victim to a Bluetooth hack, you would employ the same methods used to identify other wireless security attacks. This includes:

  • Using anti-malware tools to monitor for viruses, spyware, data breaches, and other security risks.
  • Keeping an eye on your emails and online accounts for signs of unauthorized access or attempted logins from unknown devices and locations.
  • Regularly checking your apps folders (and processes if you use Android) for items that you don’t recognize or haven’t installed.
  • Monitoring your data usage. Bluetooth attacks will often send data back to attackers in the background, and you should be able to see your data usage increase. If it seems like your smartphone or tablet is sending or receiving a lot more data than usual, that may be a sign that a Bluetooth spying hack is present.

Types of Bluetooth attacks and possible security risk

Although Bluetooth is designed to be secure, it’s certainly not an unbreakable protocol, and a number of different types of Bluetooth attacks have been discovered over the years. Some of the biggest Bluetooth hacks of modern times include:

  • Bluesnarfing: This is one of the most dangerous Bluetooth attacks discovered by security researchers since it has been designed to work even on devices which are set to be non-discoverable over Bluetooth. If the Bluesnarfing attack is carried out successfully, it can be used to copy all the content stored on your device — including messages, photos, call logs, and passwords. Bluesnarfing was first discovered around 2014 when it was used to hack mostly Nokia and Sony handsets.
  • Bluebugging: This attack was mostly designed for snooping purposes when it was created by German researcher Martin Herfurt in 2004. It can intercept your phone calls, giving Bluetooth phone hackers the ability to eavesdrop on your conversations, as well as monitor your browsing habits, messages, and emails.
  • Bluejacking: This is one of the most common Bluetooth hacks, but fortunately it is also one of the least dangerous. It was originally designed in the early 2000s for distributing harmless pranks, and it can only really be used to send spam messages.

Whatever the attack may be, it is almost always carried out in a similar fashion. Hackers will typically go to a public place, such as a coffee shop, and use sophisticated software that automatically searches for Bluetooth-enabled devices nearby. The software first obtains a list of Bluetooth peripherals you’ve connected to in the past, then replicates them, so your smartphone or tablet believes that it is communicating with a trusted device.

Once the software has established a connection, it can then send the malicious code to your Android or iOS device without your permission — and in many cases, you’ll have no idea it’s happening.

How to protect your smartphone from Bluetooth hacking

Some of the simplest steps you can take to protect yourself from Bluetooth hacking  risks on Android and iOS are:

  • Disable Bluetooth connectivity when it’s not in use by following these steps:
    • Open the Settings app (then tap Connections if you’re using Android)
    • Tap Bluetooth
    • Ensure Bluetooth is disabled
  • Disable features that use Bluetooth, such as AirDrop on iOS or Fast Share on Android, whenever you’re not using them
  • Block unknown or unexpected Bluetooth pairing requests
  • “Forget” previously paired Bluetooth devices if you no longer use them by following these steps:
    • Open the Settings app (then tap Connections if you’re using Android)
    • Tap Bluetooth
    • Select any saved devices you no longer need, then tap Forget

If you’re particularly concerned about wireless hacking and you want to bolster your security.

Don’t Share Sensitive Information

Considering this technology’s vulnerabilities, and more yet to be discovered, it’s best to avoid sharing sensitive information via Bluetooth. This includes bank information, passwords, private photos, and other PII.

Change Bluetooth Settings To “Not Discoverable”

Many attacks target Bluetooth devices that are within range and are discoverable. This is how they locate and zero in on the ones they can infiltrate. There are cybercriminals who have worked around this and are now able to attack even Bluetooth devices that are not discoverable. However, these attacks are rarer, so you’re limiting hackers’ options.

Be Careful Who You Pair With

Do not accept pairing requests unless you are sure it’s with a device you want to link to. This is how hackers gain access to the information in your device.

Avoid Pairing Devices in Public

Crowded public places are hotspots for hackers. If you must pair a device for the first time, make sure you do it at home, in the office, or in a secure area. This is to make sure hackers don’t detect your Bluetooth device while you have made it discoverable while pairing.

Don’t Forget To Unpair

If a Bluetooth device that you have previously paired with gets lost or stolen, make sure you remove it from your list of paired devices. In fact, you should do this with all the Bluetooth devices this stolen or lost gadget was previously connected to.

Install Patches and Updates

Gadgets are often rolled out with unknown vulnerabilities. These will only be discovered once buyers start using them. This is why companies release patches and critical updates for software.

Updates repair security flaws that have recently been discovered and fix bugs. Installing them helps keep hackers out.

Keeping Hackers Out

Yes Bluetooth hacking can cause a lot of damage, but you can take steps to prevent it.

Using this technology comes with a lot of security and privacy risks. So turn your Bluetooth off when you’re not using it. Don’t ever pair with unknown devices. And always make sure you’re on top of your device’s updates or patches.

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