Bluetooth Classic’s cryptographic protocol, forward secrecy, is crucial for ensuring that past interactions are protected and confidential – preventing communications from being disclosed after the fact. And on the flipside, future secrecy is a protocol that ensures future communications are confidential – even if the keys used in earlier interactions have been compromised.
The Hacker News recently reported that new research has revealed six new attacks which break those forward secrecy and future secrecy guarantees. And this means that attackers can position themselves as adversaries-in-the-middle (AitM); sitting between two connected peers and intercepting information shared between them.
What does the research say?
The study was led by Daniele Antonioli (Researcher at EURECOM), and was published in November 2023. The vulnerabilities have been called BLUFFS, tracked by NIST under CVE-2023-24023; and they affect Bluetooth Core Specification 4.2 to 5.4.
Antonioli noted that attacks using BLUFFS “enable device impersonation and machine-in-the-middle across sessions by only compromising one session key.” New flaws in Bluetooth’s session key derivation mechanism mean that attackers can use the same weak key across multiple sessions.
They can, therefore, establish future encryption procedures to make sure that their compromised key is used for all sessions while they’re in proximity of the device.
On the bright side, the attack is limited by proximity – the attacking device must be within range of two vulnerable Bluetooth-enabled devices that are initiating a pairing attempt.
Antonioli wrote in the study:
“From this work, we learned three key lessons that we want to share: (i) we should pay more attention to session establishment vulnerabilities, attacks, and fixes effective across sessions, (ii) we should agree on the definitions of Bluetooth’s forward and future secrecy and update the standard to discuss these definitions and related risks, (iii) we need to open-source Bluetooth firmware (Controllers) and better tooling around them to improve the effectiveness, coverage, and speed of our offensive and defensive evaluations.”
Adding to the list of Bluetooth attacks
The emergence of BLUFFS is hot on the heels of a ThreatLocker report which explains how Bad Bluetooth and Bad KB Attacks enable threat actors to weaponise pairing mechanisms in order to gain control over devices running Apple MacOS systems.
And emerging attacks are added to a list of existing threats to Bluetooth security, including (but certainly not limited to):
- Bluesnarf attacks – which exploit the OBject EXchange protocol to access all files on a victim device.
- BluePrinting attacks – enabling adversaries to capture device information using data acquired via Bluetooth tech, so they can use that information to narrow the attack vector.
- BlueBump attacks – which leverage social engineering (such as a file transfer) that requires the victim to add the adversary to their trusted device list, establishing a secure connection between attacker and victim.
- BlueChop attacks – creating an expanded network (or Scatternet) by using a central device to connect to multiple other devices.
Bluetooth attacks can result in information theft, eavesdropping between devices, disruption of networks or device services, or the installation of malware. Like all connected technologies, Bluetooth offers an opportunity for adversaries to access a device or network – and it must be included in ongoing security monitoring, training, and controls.
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