Bluetooth technology is widely used because it can quickly connect one electronic device with another close by. However, it is vulnerable to “Bluesnarfing” cyber attacks. Here we tell you how to avoid being hacked on a wireless connection. 

“Bluesnarfing”, a portmanteau of the words “Bluetooth” and “snarf” (meaning "to steal"), is accessing data through an unauthorized wireless connection. Cyber criminals can hack into your mobile phone, tablet, smartwatch and other wearables to steal passwords, emails and photos without you even realizing. 

How bluesnarfing attacks work

For Bluesnarfing to work, cyber criminals must be somewhere near the device they are trying to connect to. Because Bluetooth is a wireless, short-range connection, it usually gets out of range at over 10 to 15 metres. Cyber criminals look for poorly protected devices in their vicinity.

Devices can only connect to each other via Bluetooth through a code to “pair” them and share each other's access information. Cyber criminals are able to skip this part by using special programs.

Once connected to a victim’s device, cyber criminals can see and copy large amounts of data. They can steal passwords to log in to social media profiles, impersonate their victim, and buy things online. 

Tips to protect yourself from bluesnarfing

Online safety is in your hands. You can avoid getting your devices attacked via Bluetooth by following these recommendations:

  1. Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it. This will make it less likely that a cyber criminal connects to your device without your permission.
  2. Turn off “discoverable” mode. That way, your device won’t be visible to cyber criminals.
  3. Don’t accept pairing requests from strangers. Always reject unexpected or unknown requests to pair your device.
  4. Use secure passwords. Make sure you protect your device with a secure, hard-to-guess password. Avoid simple passwords, like “1234” and “0000”.
  5. Keep your software up to date. Make sure you have installed the latest security patches on your device.

Your wireless electronic devices hold swathes of valuable data. Cyber criminals will exploit even the smallest oversight to access your data, and it’s up to you to secure your Bluetooth connection. 

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