If you've ever poked your nose into the world of cybersecurity, you'll know that hackers tend to find crippling flaws in well-established technologies, opening up an exploit for hundreds of thousands of devices worldwide. Such is the case of the BrakTooth exploit, which aims to cause problems for Bluetooth devices around the world.
In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about the BrakTooth Bluetooth attack and how to stay safe from it.
What Is BrakTooth?
BrakTooth is a brand-new exploit that targets Bluetooth systems. Its name comes from a spin-off of BlueTooth, with “Brak” meaning “crash” in Norwegian.
As the name suggests, BrakTooth’s primary goal is to crash a BlueTooth device. Sometimes it just takes the device down, and sometimes it’ll use the opening to execute arbitrary code.
Researchers discovered that BrakTooth works on a wide range of Bluetooth system-on-chip (SoC) devices. It also spans different versions of Bluetooth, ranging from version 3.0 all the way to 5.2.
How Does BrakTooth Launch an Attack?
The ASSET Research Group from the Singapore University of Technology and Design published a BrakTooth disclosure detailing how it attacks systems and the severity of each method. As such, let’s take a look at how BrakTooth attacks systems and what to expect from it.
Executing Arbitrary Code on Smart Devices
Lots of smart devices have Bluetooth these days to allow other gadgets to connect to them. Smart devices also typically connect to the internet in some way. There are millions of these gadgets connecting to the world wide web at once, creating what’s called the “Internet of Things” or IoT for short.
A flaw in an IoT device is particularly bad news because these gadgets are already a hacker’s dream. IoT devices are always connected to the internet, and it’s often left unattended, allowing malicious agents to break in and tweak things without the owner’s permission. And if it just so happens to have a crippling security flaw, that's icing on the cake for the hacker.
The report states that, if a hacker knows what system they’re cracking into, they can use the BrakTooth exploit to execute code remotely and do what they will. The researchers managed to use this exploit to erase the NVRAM data on a device because the Bluetooth SoC contains a command that does just that. All the researchers had to do was invoke it.
Causing Firmware Crashes in Devices
Hackers can also use the BrakTooth exploit to cause firmware crashes in laptops and smartphones. The hackers achieve this by performing a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.
There’s a good chance you’ve already heard of the DoS attack’s bigger brother, the Direct Denial of Service (DDoS). However, a DDoS attack is when multiple sources band together to crash a system. A regular DoS is when one device brings down a system.
In the BrakTooth attack, someone can send a laptop or smartphone specially-crafted packets over Bluetooth to the device. Unfortunately, the target device’s Bluetooth firmware isn’t entirely sure what to do with these packets and will eventually crash under the weight of the packets.
Locking Up Audio Devices
Someone can also sue BrakTooth to send a series of planned-out packets at audio devices, causing them to lock up. The researchers tried the exploit on both a Xiaomi MDZ-36-DB and a JBL TUNE 500BT. The former froze up and the latter shut down, forcing the researchers to have to reboot the device manually.
How to Stay Safe From BrakTooth
When protecting yourself from BrakTooth, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is, because the problem lies within the system’s hardware, there’s little you can do to save your devices from BrakTooth other than disabling Bluetooth on your devices.
The good news is, the researchers have already informed the manufacturers of the hardware about BrakTooth. They’re now hard at work getting a fix out, so be sure to keep your devices updated for the new patch.
Don't Let BrakTooth Make You Feel Blue
While Braktooth does sound intimidating, it has since been reported and fixes are on their way to devices worldwide. If it's been a while since you've updated your IoT devices, be sure to double-check if any are pending and get this nasty issue fixed.