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    Wireless Connections and Bluetooth Security Tips

    Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth connections can be vulnerable points of access for data or identity theft. Fortunately, there are many ways to decrease your chances of becoming a victim.

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    Wireless Connections and Bluetooth Security Tips

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    Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth connections can be vulnerable points of access for data or identity theft.  Fortunately, there are many ways to decrease your chances of becoming a victim.

    Encryption is the best way to keep your personal data safe. It works by scrambling the data in a message so that only the intended recipients can read it.  When the address of a website you're visiting starts with "https" instead of "http," that indicates encryption is taking place between your browser and site.

    The two most common types of encryption are Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). The strongest one commonly available is WPA2, so use that if you have the option. Home Wi-Fi systems and public Wi-Fi access points, or "hotspots," usually will inform you of the encryption they use.

    Public Wi-Fi Access Bluetooth Security

    Home Wireless Network Security

    Passwords Public Wi-Fi Access

    Many Wi-Fi users choose to use public networks instead of their devices' data plans for accessing the internet remotely. But the convenience of public Wi-Fi can be risky.  If you're not careful, hackers may quickly access your connection and compromise sensitive information stored on your device and in online accounts. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the risk:

    Check the validity of available Wi-Fi hotspots. If more than one hotspot appears claiming to belong to an establishment that you're in, check with the staff to avoid connecting to an imposter hotspot.

    Make sure all websites you exchange information with have "https" at the beginning of the web address. If so, your transmitted data will be encrypted.

    Install an app add-on that forces your web browsers to use encryption when connecting to websites -- even well-known sites that may not normally encrypt their communications.

    Adjust your smartphone's settings so it does not automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi networks. This gives you more control over where and when you connect.

    If you use public Wi-Fi hotspots on a regular basis, consider using a virtual private network, which will encrypt all transmissions between your device and the internet. Many companies offer VPNs to their employees for work purposes, and individuals may subscribe to VPNs on their own.

    When transmitting sensitive information, using your cellphone data plan instead of Wi-Fi may be more secure.

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    Date Last Updated/Reviewed:

    Tuesday, July 27, 2021

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    Consumer and Governmental Affairs

    Tags:

    Consumers - Online privacy - Privacy Consumer Issues

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    7 safety tips from hackers

    Want to protect yourself from hackers? Take advice from hackers.

    The Cybercrime Economy

    7 safety tips from hackers

    by Jose Pagliery   @Jose_Pagliery

    September 22, 2014: 2:19 PM ET

    So you've been hacked... Now what?

    It's easy to get hacked. And yes, it can happen to you.

    Follow this advice from actual hackers, and you'll be a lot safer online.

    1. Turn off your phone's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Hackers are religious about this. Keeping these features "on" all the time makes it easy for strangers to slip into your phone.

    The problem? If you keep Wi-Fi and Bluetooth active, hackers can see what networks you've connected to before, spoof them and trick your phone into connecting to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices that hackers carry around.

    Once connected to your phone, hackers can bombard your device with malware, steal data or spy on you. And you won't even notice.

    So, turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you need them. Turn them off when you don't.

    2. Use two-step authentication. Nowadays, a single password isn't enough. They get exposed all the time.

    Lots of email and social media services offer an extra later of protection: two-step authentication -- essentially a second, temporary password.

    For example, when you set this up with Google, (GOOG) Twitter (TWTR) and LinkedIn, (LNKD) they ask you for a secret code every time you log in from a new device. You immediately get a text message with a six-digit number.

    It's an effective way to keep out hackers. Even if someone gets your password, they'd still need your phone too -- an unlikely scenario.

    3. Create a smart password strategy. For the select few websites with your most sensitive information (email, bank), create some long and unique passphrases, like .

    For everything else? Use a password manager. This type of program stores all your passwords online, so you can make each one different, and you won't have to remember them all.

    But only use a password manager that encrypts them on your device. LastPass and Password Safe do this.

    (Why not use a password manager for everything? One master password unlocks them all. You create a single point of failure.)

    Change all of your passwords more than once a year.

    Related: Hackers show ways to protect your iPhone

    This drone can hack your phone

    4. Use HTTPS on every website. Install the HTTPS Everywhere tool developed by the pro-privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation. It encrypts all the information your browser is sending between your computer and websites.

    If you only see HTTP in the address bar, anyone can spy on your Internet session.

    5. Bulk up your home Wi-Fi. Setting up Wi-Fi at home is a tour through the circles of hell. But these two steps are important.

    First, set up a password. Don't keep the default password on the sticker.

    Next, the machine will ask what type of security encryption standard you'd like. Choose WPA-2.

    Lots of machines default to WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) or WPA (Wireless Protected Access). Avoid them at all costs. A known Wi-Fi flaw can give up your password in seconds.

    6. Don't hide your home Wi-Fi. Your home router asks: "Hide the SSID?" If you say yes, then your devices are forced to "actively scan" for the home network you're trying to hide. Sure, they'll connect. But as a result, your device "actively scans" for networks all the time.

    Your laptop and phone are more susceptible to connecting to strangers' unsafe Wi-Fi networks.

    "You're actually setting yourself back five years in terms of security," said Ben Smith, an experienced Wi-Fi hacker who's worked on secretive government projects.

    7. Think twice before buying an Internet-connected device. Do you really need a "smart" fridge or oven?

    Companies are still figuring out the kinks -- especially the tiny ones raising money on crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, according to Duo Security researcher Mark Stanislav.

    Tech companies are in a rush to slap the Internet on everything. Cool features get all the attention. Privacy and safety don't.

    As a case in point, a foul-mouthed hacker hijacked a baby's monitor last year.

    "You might be getting told things are secure, when they're not," said Stanislav, who hacks devices for research.

    CNNMoney (New York)

    First published September 22, 2014: 9:46 AM ET

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    Why You Should Turn Off Bluetooth When You're Not Using It

    Minimizing your Bluetooth usage minimizes your exposure to very real vulnerabilities.

    Why You Should Turn Off Bluetooth When You're Not Using It

    Facebook LinkedIn Twitter By Lily Hay Newman July 25, 2022 News

    Summary

    Minimizing your Bluetooth usage minimizes your exposure to very real vulnerabilities.

    Why You Should Turn Off Bluetooth When You're Not Using It

    You intuitively know why you should bolt your doors when you leave the house and add some sort of authentication for your smartphone. But there are lots of digital entrances that you leave open all the time, such as Wi-Fi and your cell connection. It's a calculated risk, and the benefits generally make it worthwhile. That calculus changes with Bluetooth. Whenever you don't absolutely need it, you should go ahead and turn it off.

    Minimizing your Bluetooth usage minimizes your exposure to very real vulnerabilities. That includes an attack called BlueBorne, announced this week by the security firm Armis, which would allow any affected device with Bluetooth turned on to be attacked through a series of vulnerabilities. The flaws aren't in the Bluetooth standard itself, but in its implementation in all sorts of software. Windows, Android, Linux and iOS have been vulnerable to BlueBorne in the past. Millions could still be at risk.

    So, yeah, turn off Bluetooth if you're not using it or if you're near anyone you don't trust. There might be some inconvenience when you bring your laptop to your desk and want it to connect to a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. You might end up flipping the switch fairly often to use Bluetooth headphones. But you likely don't use Bluetooth most of the time. Even if you lean on it all day at work, you can ditch it at a birthday dinner or when you're asleep. And if you use it 24/7 on your phone because of a peripheral like a smartwatch, you can at least turn it off on your other devices, especially any Bluetooth-enabled internet of things gear.

    "For attackers it's Candy Land," said David Dufour, vice president of engineering and cybersecurity at the security firm Webroot. "You sit with a computer with a Bluteooth-enabled radio—just scanning for devices saying, ‘Hey, is anybody out there?’ Then you start prodding those devices to look for things like the operating system and the Bluetooth version. It’s a hop, skip and a jump to start doing bad stuff.”

    BlueBorne

    As overall device security improves, researchers and attackers alike have turned to ancillary features and components to find ways in. In July, researchers announced a bug in a widely used Broadcom mobile Wi-Fi chip that put a billion devices at risk before it was patched. And in 2015, researchers found a critical flaw in Apple's Airdrop file-sharing feature over Bluetooth.

    And then there's BlueBorne. Apple's iOS hasn't been affected by the flaws since the 2016 iOS 10 release, Microsoft patched the bugs in Windows in July, and Google is working on distributing a patch (though this can take significant time). But in addition to endangering core devices such as smartphones and PCs, BlueBorne has implications for the billions of Bluetooth-equipped internet of things devices in the world including smart TVs, speakers, and even smart lightbulbs. Many of these devices are built on Linux and don't have a mechanism for distributing updates. Or even if they do, they rarely receive them in practice. Linux is working on but hasn't yet issued a BlueBorne patch.

    "We wanted get the research community on board with this, because it didn’t take us a long time to find these bugs, one thing kind of led to another and we found eight really severe vulnerabilities,” said Ben Seri, the head of research at Armis. “Our assumption is there are probably a lot more. We want to get eyes and ears on this type of thing because it’s largely gone neglected by the research community and by vendors over the past years."

    When Bluetooth is on in a device, it is constantly open to and waiting for potential connections. So a BlueBorne attack starts by going through the process Webroot's Dufour describes—scanning for devices that have Bluetooth on and probing them for information such as device type and operating system to see if they have the relevant vulnerabilities. Once an attacker identifies vulnerable targets, the hack is quick (it can happen in about 10 seconds) and flexible. The impacted devices don't need to connect to anything, and the attack can even work when the Bluetooth on the victim device is already paired to something else. BlueBorne bugs can allow attackers to take control of victim devices and access—even potentially steal—their data. The attack can also spread from device to device once in motion, if other vulnerable Bluetooth-enabled targets are nearby.

    As with virtually all Bluetooth remote exploits, attackers would still need to be in range of the device (roughly 33 feet) to pull off a BlueBorne attack. But even with the extensive and productive BlueBorne patching that has already happened, there are still likely plenty of vulnerable devices in any populated area or building.

    The best defense

    The importance of Bluetooth defense has become increasingly clear, and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which manages the standard, has focused on security (particularly cryptography upgrades) in recent versions. But attacks like BlueBorne that affect individual implementations of Bluetooth are attracting attention as well. "Attacks against improperly secured Bluetooth implementations can provide attackers with unauthorized access to sensitive information and unauthorized use of Bluetooth devices and other systems or networks to which the devices are connected," the National Institute of Standards and Technology noted in its extensive May "Guide to BluetoothSecurity" update.

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