Understanding Bluetooth Technology
Many electronic devices are now incorporating Bluetooth technology to allow wireless communication with other Bluetooth devices. Before using Bluetooth, it is important to understand what it is, what security risks it presents, and how to protect yourself.
What is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a technology that allows devices to communicate with each other without cables or wires. It is an electronics "standard," which means that manufacturers that want to include this feature have to incorporate specific requirements into their electronic devices. These specifications ensure that the devices can recognize and interact with other devices that use the Bluetooth technology.
Many popular manufacturers are making devices that use Bluetooth technology. These devices include mobile phones, computers, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The Bluetooth technology relies on short-range radio frequency, and any device that incorporates the technology can communicate as long as it is within the required distance. The technology is often used to allow two different types of devices to communicate with each other. For example, you may be able to operate your computer with a wireless keyboard, use a wireless headset to talk on your mobile phone, or add an appointment to your friend's PDA calendar from your own PDA.
What are some security concerns?
Depending upon how it is configured, Bluetooth technology can be fairly secure. You can take advantage of its use of key authentication (see Understanding Digital Signatures for more information) and encryption (see Understanding Encryption for more information). Unfortunately, many Bluetooth devices rely on short numeric PIN numbers instead of more secure passwords or passphrases (see Choosing and Protecting Passwords for more information).
If someone can "discover" your Bluetooth device, he or she may be able to send you unsolicited messages or abuse your Bluetooth service, which could cause you to be charged extra fees. Worse, an attacker may be able to find a way to access or corrupt your data. One example of this type of activity is "bluesnarfing," which refers to attackers using a Bluetooth connection to steal information off of your Bluetooth device. Also, viruses or other malicious code can take advantage of Bluetooth technology to infect other devices. If you are infected, your data may be corrupted, compromised, stolen, or lost. You should also be aware of attempts to convince you to send information to someone you do not trust over a Bluetooth connection (see Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information).
How can you protect yourself?
NOTE: Your agency/bureau/department/division may have specific requirements – always check your policies and procedures. If you have questions, contact your Privacy Officer.