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Bluetooth Malware Discovered: 5.3 Billion Devices At Risk

An internet of things security company recently identified a new, "highly infectious" form of malware. According to the organization, 5.3 billion of the 8.2 billion Bluetooth enabled devices worldwide are vulnerable to this strain of malware.

This malware, called BlueBorne, is particularly dangerous because it spreads undetected without any action on the user's part. Whereas most malware requires the user to click a link or download a file, BlueBorne can spread to any device with Bluetooth turned on. Once it infects one Bluetooth enabled device, it can quickly spread to any other devices within range that are using Bluetooth.

BlueBorne is similar to the ransomware WannaCry, which crippled hundreds of organizations earlier this year. WannaCry took advantage of the EternalBlue vulnerability to infect all network connected computers after being downloaded onto a single computer. This technique allowed WannaCry to infect hundreds of thousands of computers within a few hours.

These similarities have led cybersecurity experts to fear that BlueBorne could be as devastating as WannaCry, or even more so.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all released patches to protect against BlueBorne. However, many smart devices do not receive such frequent updates. Experts estimate that 2 billion devices will not receive a patch to protect them from BlueBorne. Alfred Ng "Billions of Bluetooth devices could get hit by this attack," www.cnet.com (Sept. 12, 2017).


Commentary

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that enables devices to share data over short distances. All kinds of devices, from smartphones to exercise trackers to portable speakers, use Bluetooth to connect to and communicate with other devices wirelessly.

Unfortunately, because Bluetooth-enabled devices can connect to each other so easily, it leaves them vulnerable to hackers. As this case shows, hackers only need to infect one connected device, and then they can use Bluetooth technology to infect all other devices nearby.

Many Bluetooth enabled devices, such as smart refrigerators or baby monitors, do not have the same security software and password protections as computers or smartphones, which makes them even more vulnerable to hackers.

In this case, the only ways to protect against BlueBorne are to either download a patch known to fix the vulnerability or to keep Bluetooth turned off.

It is a best practice to keep Bluetooth disabled on all computers and devices unless you are currently using it to exchange information with a nearby device, and, it is important to remember to keep all devices and computers updated.

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