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Bluesnarfing, Sybil Attacks and Other Emerging Cybercrime Tactics

Attacks on Bluetooth devices are a growing trend in the cybercrime world. Here are some of the common threats you and your clients should be aware of.
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bluesnarfing, sybil attacks and other emerging cybercrime tactics

With wireless accessories like AirPods becoming increasingly popular, consumers should be vigilant against cyberattacks on their Bluetooth devices, according to cybersecurity company NordVPN. 

Attacks on Bluetooth devices are a growing trend in the cybercrime world. A device called Flipper Zero, which is a portable radio-style tool originally designed as a gadget to make cybersecurity information more accessible but rebranded as a hacking device by viral TikTok trends, can read signals emitted by wireless devices and has made it easier for bad actors to crash smartphones by overloading them with Bluetooth spam and connection requests. 

A range of other Bluetooth cyberattacks are on the rise, according to NordVPN. Here are some of the common ones you and your clients should be aware of: 

1) Bluejacking. A simple attack, bluejacking is when a hacker finds a Bluetooth-enabled device and latches onto it using pairing, with the end goal to spam the victim with messages and images, explained Marijus Briedis, cybersecurity expert at NordVPN. If a password is required to connect to it, the hacker can use brute-force software to cycle through password combinations. 

“While bluejacking is often more of a nuisance than a significant threat, once a hacker can connect with you easily, it's another route through which they can try to reel you in with scams like phishing or bogus crypto schemes," Briedis said, warning that consumers should delete all Bluetooth devices their smartphone has synced with that they don't recognize. 

2) Bluesnarfing. The etymology of bluesnarfing derives from “snarfing," meaning to copy over files or data, and “Bluetooth." A hack that's particularly effective on older devices or ones running out-of-date software, bluesnarfing is where a hacker steals information on your phone over a Bluetooth connection. Stolen data can include calendars, emails, texts, photos and more. 

Because a bluesnarfer needs to download the information over close range, typically within 30 feet, one is most likely to encounter the cyberattack in a public area such as a bus or coffee shop, Briedis said, adding that smartphone users should “make sure to refuse any anonymous Bluetooth connection requests and look out for anyone nearby who seems overly interested in your smartphone." 

3) Bluebugging. A more dangerous attack, bluebugging gives a cybercriminal complete control over your device, including accessing any data and even listening in on your calls. 

“Bluebugging exploits the gaps in operating systems and hardware so the best way to prevent becoming a victim is to practice safe digital hygiene and make sure you install regular system and app updates," Briedis said. 

4) Bluetooth impersonation. Some cybercriminals disguise their approach by disguising themselves as a doppelganger of an existing paired device or friend. Weaknesses in some Bluetooth communication settings allow the hacker to trick a device into reconnecting with the doppelganger. Briedis warns that consumers should be aware of the specific names of approved devices, as well as limit the time they have Bluetooth active. 

To protect against these attacks, and other variations of Bluetooth hacking, NordVPN encourages smartphone users to turn Bluetooth off when not actively using it, don't accept pairing requests from unknown devices, and keep firmware updated. 

Common Crypto Cyberattacks 

Bad actors aren't just taking advantage of Bluetooth weaknesses, they're also capitalizing on cryptocurrency and blockchain. Due to the volatile, relatively unregulated nature of the crypto world, it can be difficult to determine what's real and what's a scam. Here are three common attacks to look out for, according to SecurityHQ: 

1) Initial coin offering (ICO) fraud. A type of social engineering, ICO fraud is also known as the rugpull and is essentially the Ponzi scheme of the digital currency era. These are falsely advertised crypto investments, often with fake testimonials and well-produced websites. Cybercriminals trick people into investing money in the new cryptocurrency, only for the invested money to disappear upon the supposed launch. 

2) Sybil attack. Named after the 1973 book “Sybil" by Flora Rheta Schreiber, a Sybyil attack occurs when a malicious actor takes advantage of weaknesses in the node creation process—nodes being connection points in a communication network—to use a single node to operate many active fake identities within a peer-to-peer network, according to Imperva

A Sybil attack allows hackers to perform unauthorized actions in the system. For example, it enables a single entity, such as a computer, to create and operate several identities, such as user accounts and IP address-based accounts, to trick systems and users into perceiving them as real. 

3) 51% attack. A 51% attack is the result of a Sybil attack that gives the bad actor control of more than half of a network's total nodes, allowing them to change transactions, create falsified transactions and even manipulate pricing. 

AnneMarie McPherson Spears is IA news editor.  

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Thursday, February 1, 2024
Cyber Liability