Holiday Warning: Criminals Targeting Bluetooth Enabled Devices In Parking Lot Vehicles


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We already know how rampant vehicle break-ins are during the holiday season. But most of those thieves are after your recently purchased gifts that you carelessly left exposed in the back seat.

Police across the country are now reporting a new tactic by auto beak-in thieves.

Wired Magazine has reported that criminals are using Bluetooth scanners to identify vehicles with phones, laptops, smart watches and other devices with Bluetooth turned on.

Having detected those devices, the criminals then break into the vehicles to steal them. In a twist, the very same Bluetooth function pitched by some manufacturers as a way to find devices that have been misplaced is now doubling as a beacon for thieves.

“At the beginning of October, a 31-year-old construction estimator named Samantha parked her Honda Fit on the street in Chicago. She left her backpack with a laptop and external hard drive in it under the backseat, and carefully covered the seat with a black blanket. Yet by the time she came back to her car, a burglar had smashed a window, broken in, and stolen the bag. Samantha reported the incident to the police but never heard back.

Unfortunately, car burglaries are common in the United States, especially in large cities. But Samantha’s experience also has something else in common with many other break-ins around the country: It felt like the robbers knew there was valuable electronic gear in the vehicle.”

The Bluetooth scanners don’t even have to be specialized devices. In fact, you can easily install a Bluetooth scanner app yourself. It uses your smartphone’s own internal Bluetooth sensors to find nearby signals. They not only list everything they find, but provide details like what type of device they’re picking up, whether that device is currently paired to another over Bluetooth, and how close the listed devices are within a few meters.

The apps are often marketed as tools for finding lost devices, like scanning for your misplaced FitBit at your in-laws’ house. But they’re dead simple to use for any purpose—and they expose many more results than your phone does on its own when looking for something to pair with in your Bluetooth settings.

Targeting valuables in vehicles aside, Bluetooth has had various security issues in the past. Data theft using Bluetooth connections, particularly previous incarnations of the standard, have occurred. That includes a vulnerabilility in July 2018 that allowed hackers to use Bluetooth to steal data.

“Many devices with Bluetooth emit signals, especially laptops and smartphones that have Bluetooth enabled,” says Deral Heiland, research lead at security firm Rapid7 Inc..

“It is common to see people give their Bluetooth connection some very personal names,” he added. “I have seen everything from their phone number, full name to actually passwords for access. So a quick reminder to everyone, please turn off your Bluetooth connection when not in use and never ever give the device a name which contains even a miniscule amount of personal information.”

Moreover, he advised, “if you’re storing devices in your car, power them completely down. This should avoid anyone with a Bluetooth Tracker to locate your items, even inside your vehicle.

Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!


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