Thursday, 29 March 2007

Bolstering Bluetooth

March 29, 2007

Bluetooth is getting its first filling, thanks to researchers from Tel Aviv University's electrical-engineering school. The technology -- which passes data between cellphones, laptops, and other devices over short-range radio frequencies -- is already widely used, but the team at Tel Aviv discovered that it had some disturbing security holes.

Avishai Wool, a professor at the university, and Yaniv Shaked, a graduate student, say Bluetooth is vulnerable to "snipers" -- hackers who quickly breach cellphone security systems in order to place calls and browse address books. Skilled hackers can exploit Bluetooth's "pairing" technology, through which machines communicate with each other, to eavesdrop on communications from as much as a mile away, Mr. Wool says.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a commission that develops standards for the wireless technology, has already heeded the Israeli scientists' warning and developed a new security system that should solve the pairing problem. "It'll be more difficult for hackers to get into your cellphones and steal your address books and stuff," says Mr. Wool. -- Matthew Kalman

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