UPDATED 21:54 EDT / NOVEMBER 18 2019

3670562025_9a7d2474d7_c SECURITY

Criminals are using Bluetooth to target vehicles containing valuables

Criminals in the San Francisco Bay Area are using Bluetooth to identify valuables in cars.

Wired reported today that criminals are using Bluetooth scanners to identify vehicles with phones, laptops and other devices with Bluetooth turned on.

Having detected those devices, the criminals then break into the vehicles to steal them. In a twist, the very same Bluetooth function pitched by some manufacturers as a way to find devices that have been misplaced is now doubling as a beacon for thieves.

Although the threat has been dismissed by some as an urban myth, the San Jose Police Department confirmed that it’s real. “In our corridor, yes, we have noticed that they are in use…. Right now we do know that thieves are utilizing them,” a spokesperson told Wired.

Targeting valuables in vehicles aside, Bluetooth has had various security issues in the past. Data theft using Bluetooth connections, particularly older incarnations of the standard, have occurred. That includes a vulnerabilility in July 2018 that allowed hackers to use Bluetooth to steal data.

“Many devices with Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy emit signals, but laptops which have had their screens lids closed for storage and or placement in a backpack, should go into hibernation mode and should not be emitting any wireless signals including BT/BLE,” Deral Heiland, “internet of things” research lead at security firm Rapid7 Inc., told SiliconANGLE.

Noting that the threat is real, Heiland said that he personally keeps Bluetooth off unless he’s using it.

“It is common to see people give their BT/BLE device on their phones some very personal names,” he added. “I have seen everything from their phone number, full name to actually passwords for access. So a quick reminder to everyone, please turn off your BT/BLE when not in use and never ever give the device a name which contains personal information.”

Moreover, he advised, “if you’re storing devices in your car, power them completely down. This should avoid anyone with malicious intent from tracking them down using a sniffer.”

Photo: michperu/Flickr

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