Security researchers warn of ‘airborne’ IoT malware, Blueborne
Security researchers warn of 'airborne' IoT malware, Blueborne

Security researchers warn of ‘airborne’ IoT malware, Blueborne

Billions of Bluetooth devices could be affected by Blueborne malware, say researchers. 

Security researchers at Armis Labs have discovered a number of Bluetooth vulnerabilities that could affect millions of IoT devices around the world.

More specifically, any device that uses Bluetooth connectivity – from smartphones to medical devices – could become the target of an attack vector that the researchers have named ‘BlueBorne’. In a blog post, they said the malware can “spread through the air and attack devices via Bluetooth.”

“BlueBorne allows attackers to take control of devices, access corporate data and networks, penetrate secure ‘air-gapped’ networks, and spread malware laterally to adjacent devices,” said researchers.

Read more: Mesh networking comes to Bluetooth

Eight vulnerabilities so far

Researchers said the attack does not require the targeted device to be paired to the attacker’s device, or even to be set on discoverable mode. It has so far identified eight zero-day vulnerabilities so far, which, it said, indicate the existence and potential of the attack vector. It also said that many more vulnerabilities await discovery in the various platforms using Bluetooth

“These vulnerabilities are fully operational and can be successfully exploited, as demonstrated in our research. The BlueBorne attack vector can be used to conduct a large range of offences, including remote code execution as well as man-in-the-middle attacks,” they said.

The Armis researchers added that BlueBorne can potentially affect all devices with Bluetooth capabilities, estimated at over 8.2 billion devices today.

Read more: Smart city of Aarhus uses Bluetooth sensors to improve traffic flows

Spread through the air

Researchers said they were concerned about the attack because of the medium its operates in.

“Unlike the majority of attacks today, which rely on the internet, a BlueBorne attack spreads through the air. This works similarly to the two less extensive vulnerabilities discovered recently in a Broadcom Wi-Fi chip by Project Zero and Exodus.

“The vulnerabilities found in Wi-Fi chips affect only the peripherals of the device, and require another step to take control of the device. With BlueBorne, attackers can gain full control right from the start. Moreover, Bluetooth offers a wider attacker surface than Wi-Fi, almost entirely unexplored by the research community and hence contains far more vulnerabilities.”

The company said that flaws that can spread over the air and between devices pose a tremendous threat to any organization or individual.

“Current security measures, including endpoint protection, mobile data management, firewalls, and network security solution are not designed to identify these type of attacks, and related vulnerabilities and exploits, as their main focus is to block attacks that can spread via IP connections,” said researchers.

“New solutions are needed to address the new airborne attack vector, especially those that make air gapping irrelevant. Additionally, there will need to be more attention and research as new protocols are using for consumers and businesses alike.”

Read more: Bluetooth 5 launches with emphasis on IoT