Keeping Your Laptop’s Bluetooth Connection Secure
Bluetooth connections from your laptops to devices is convenient but also risky. Let’s help minimize the risks.
Most laptops come with Bluetooth connectivity. With this wireless technology, you can easily connect a keyboard, mouse, headset, or other peripheral to your laptop. It works great to send files to a printer or share data between your laptop, such as your smartphone or a co-worker’s computer.
With names like bluejacking, bluesnarfing, and bluebugging, we see that hackers have been busy attacking victims via Bluetooth connections. Cybercriminals can hack Bluetooth connections to send unwanted messages (bluejacking), steal data (bluesnarfing), or take control of devices (bluebugging).
These types of attacks are fairly easy to carry out, thanks to security vulnerabilities often found in devices that use Bluetooth. While the Bluetooth implementation in laptops often have adequate safeguards, other types of Bluetooth-enabled devices often do not. Many manufacturers are creating Bluetooth-enabled devices without any serious thought about securing those connections. These lack of safeguards is largely due to the lack of regulations in this area.
How to Minimize the Risks
Hackers need to be in fairly close proximity — within 300 feet for a Class 1 Bluetooth device and 30 feet for a Class 2 device. Even with this limitation, connecting Bluetooth-enabled devices to your laptop can be risky. Fortunately, you can minimize the risks by taking a few precautions:
- Turn Bluetooth off on your laptop when you are not using it. This makes it impossible for hackers to access your laptop via Bluetooth. It also helps save battery power.
- Turn off the “discoverable” or “pairing” mode on a Bluetooth-enabled device when you are done pairing it with your laptop. Turning off this mode makes it harder (but not impossible) for a hacker to access your Bluetooth connection. Check with the manufacturer if you are unsure how to turn off this mode on the device. (Note that some devices automatically turn off this mode when the pairing process is complete.)
- Make sure the Bluetooth-enabled device uses authentication when pairing. If you have a device that does not require a passcode (or if passcode is 0000), you should replace it with one that uses authentication.
- Do not use Bluetooth devices that rely on out-dated versions of the Bluetooth specification. They will likely have unpatched security vulnerabilities, making the Bluetooth connection more vulnerable.
Keep the firmware and software on your laptop and Bluetooth devices updated. If updates are not available for a device, consider replacing it.
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