In a previous diary entry, I had written about the increasing trend of Bluetooth vulnerabilities being reported in the recent years . Today, the Automated Systems SEcuriTy (ASSET) Research Group from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) revealed the BrakTooth family of vulnerabilities in commercial Bluetooth (BT) Classic stacks for various System-on-Chips (SoC) . In this diary, I will be giving a brief background on BrakTooth, highlight affected products and also discuss next steps affected users/vendors could consider.
The name BrakTooth was coined from the Norwegian word “Brak” (translates to crash in English), and “Tooth” (a hat-tip to the Bluetooth protocol). These vulnerabilities were mainly caused due to non-compliance to Bluetooth Core Specifications and their respective communication protocol layers. 13 Bluetooth devices (Bluetooth Classic versions ranging from Bluetooth 3.0 + HS to Bluetooth 5.2) from 11 different vendors were assessed. 16 new vulnerabilities were discovered, and 20 Common Vulnerability Exposures (CVE) Identifiers (IDs) were assigned (along with another 4 CVE IDs pending assignment from Intel and Qualcomm). On top of the vulnerabilities that were discovered, some devices also displayed anomalous behaviour that deviates from the Bluetooth Core Specifications . The summary of vulnerabilities, anomalies, devices and patch status are outlined in Table 1 below.
The various patch statuses are explained as follows:
Utilizing the BrakTooth family of vulnerabilities, the researchers could achieve arbitrary code execution on smart home products that used ESP32 SoC, cause Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks on laptops and smartphones, and finally induce audio products to freeze up. A preliminary examination of products listed in the Bluetooth listing indicated that over 1400 product listings were affected . However, as the Bluetooth stack is likely to be shared amongst many products, there is a high possibility that many other Bluetooth products are affected by BrakTooth. As of now, the Proof-of-Concept (PoC) code is only made available to any Bluetooth semiconductor or module vendors and embargoed until the end of October 2021 (before the code is made available for the public).
How should everyone handle the usage of Bluetooth devices, especially if the devices used are affected by BrakTooth? As a start, one might want to be more aware of one’s surroundings when using Bluetooth. Since BrakTooth is based on the Bluetooth Classic protocol, an adversary would have to be in the radio range of the target to execute the attacks. As such, secured facilities should have a lower risk as compared to public areas (assuming no insiders within secured facilities). Having said that, this could also be a difficult task if an adversary manages to conceal the equipment well, though that would affect the range of Bluetooth connectivity.
For end users, it is highly recommended to check if the Bluetooth products currently being used are in Table 1. If the patches are available (or if you can contact the vendor for the patch), please apply them immediately. If the patch is in progress or if the vendor is still investigating, perhaps it would be worthwhile to watch out for any anomalous behaviour (such as the inability to reconnect to a Bluetooth connection or audio devices not responding) when Bluetooth is being in use. Turn it off (if possible) when Bluetooth is not actively in use to reduce your attack surface. Keep a close lookout for corresponding patches and update the devices when possible. If the devices used SoC where no fixes are available, it is recommended to stop using them (unless one is prepared to accept the risk of BrakTooth vulnerabilities being exploited). Finally, keep in mind that BrakTooth is not limited only to the devices tested by the researchers as the attacks apply to any Bluetooth Classic implementation. Checking just the Bluetooth chipset is not enough to confirm the existence of BrakTooth. To concretely verify that a Bluetooth device is affected by BrakTooth, users could consider obtaining the BrakTooth PoC (when it is released to public on October 31st) and test the device with it.
Organizations, governments and critical infrastructure may be using affected components as well. If stakeholders are uncertain about the extent of Bluetooth usage and the associated devices, an audit of the devices/components in use should be carried out. Following that, a risk assessment should also be conducted to assess the risk posed by BrakTooth to users or day-to-day operations. Keeping in mind the attack vector, an interim measure could very well be enhanced physical security while affected devices are patched/replaced.
Finally, for Bluetooth SoC or module vendors, it is highly recommended to contact the researchers for the PoC to test products for BrakTooth vulnerabilities  now. Although vendors may not be legally obliged to always keep their products secure and updated, increased adoption of Bluetooth for work and health and a rising interest in Bluetooth vulnerability research underscores the importance of such issues for consideration. In addition, as customers and users get increasingly discerning for the need of their privacy and data to be protected, it is in the vendors’ best interests to ensure product security for continued presence in the market.
The full technical details of BrakTooth can be found over here , and also available as a downloadable PDF file .
Aug 31st 2021
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Aug 31st 2021
8 months ago