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'Rifle' Sniffs Out Vulnerability in Bluetooth Devices

If you've used your cell phone today -- or any other wireless device that uses Bluetooth technology -- someone could be watching you.

John Hering, a student at the University of Southern California, has developed the BlueSniper rifle, a tool that looks like a big gun which can "attack" a wireless device from more than a mile away -- several times the 328-foot maximum range of Bluetooth.

Hering, cofounder of a wireless security think tank called Flexilis, says he uses the "rifle" only to determine security vulnerabilities, not to actually hack wireless devices to obtain personal information.

"Whenever we're working on these tests, we never access anyone's data," he tells Michele Norris. "We're simply assessing the vulnerabilities and what's possible."

Hering says his goal is to boost awareness of the vulnerabilities in Bluetooth. But in laboratory testing, Hering says, his company has been able to access SMS messages, passwords, phonebook contacts and camera phone photos from Bluetooth-enabled phones.

According to IMS Research, by the end of 2005, the market of installed Bluetooth products will total about 500 million, double the number at the beginning of 2004. In addition to cell phones, Bluetooth-enabled devices include PDAs, computers, printers and cameras.

The industry's Bluetooth Special Interest Group says it takes security "very seriously." In a statement, the group says that "so far no security holes have been discovered in the Bluetooth specification itself. Vulnerabilities that have come to light either exploit the Bluetooth link as a conduit, much like the Internet to the PC, or are a result of the implementation of Bluetooth technology within the device -- as such, we constantly work with our members to assist in implementing Bluetooth technology more effectively." Security flaws that are revealed "are typically solved by new software builds and upgrades," it says.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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