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Bluecasing: War Nibbling, Bluetooth and Petty Theft

Bluecasing: War Nibbling, Bluetooth and Petty Theft  

        Bluecasing* is the act of finding devices to intrude or steal via Bluetooth (general scanning is sometimes know as War Nibbling).  For those who do not know, Bluetooth is a wireless networking technology that is geared more towards PANs (Personal Area Networks), while Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g etc) is geared more towards LANs. An over simplified way to look at it is that Bluetooth is meant to be a wireless replacement for some of the functions USB fulfills, and Wi-Fi is more of a wireless replacement for Ethernet. Many high-end phones, laptops, PDAs, car stereos and other electronics are being shipped with Bluetooth capability so they can communicate, either by sending audio or digital data to each other. For example, your PDA tells your phone to dial a number and send the output to your headset or car stereo. For more details on Bluetooth technology and its uses read the following Wikipedia entry:


        You could see Bluecasing as being sort of like Wardriving, except you are looking for Bluetooth devices instead of 802.11a/b/g/n access points. For an example of thieves using Bluetooth signals to locate things to steal, read:


        This article is not intended to help people learn to steal expensive toys, but to cover the basics of how Bluetooth devices find one another. Bluecasing/War Nibbling does not have to be for larceny. Someone could merely be curious what devices are out there or they may be planning to test for known exploits to retrieve personal information from the devices (Bluesnarfing). For  more in depth technical information read Ollie Whitehouse's article "War Nibbling: Bluetooth Insecurity" linked at the bottom of this article. What follows is a brief synopsis of how Bluecasing is done, what tools are used and what things can be done to make it harder for thieves to find Bluetooth Devices.

    Most Bluetooth stacks for Windows (Microsoft's, Widcomm) and Linux (Bluez) will support some kind of discovery. Here are a few of the user interfaces you might be familiar with when searching for Bluetooth devices:


Windows (Using Widcomm Stack):

Linux (KDE GUI):

Linux Command Line:

root@slax:~# hciconfig hci0 up
root@slax:~# hciconfig
hci0: Type: USB
BD Address: 00:0A:3A:52:69:8C ACL MTU: 192:8 SCO MTU: 64:8
RX bytes:148 acl:0 sco:0 events:17 errors:0
TX bytes:65 acl:0 sco:0 commands:17 errors:0

root@slax:~# hcitool scan
Scanning ...
00:02:72:CA:14:6D TestTop

Pocket PC:

For the built-in discovery methods to work "allow discovery" must be enabled. Windows XP and Vista with the default Microsoft Bluetooth stack have discovery turned off by default. Other operating systems and Bluetooth stacks will vary. A lot of cell phones I've run into seem to have discovery on by default, making them easier to connect to your PAN but also easier to locate. Most devices allow you to turn off discovery if you wish.


There are also purpose-made tools like BlueScanner or BTScanner for Linux (command line) or Windows XP (GUI). These tools are nice because of the quick access they give you to information such as device type and available services. The MS Windows ones I have tested require you to use Microsoft's Bluetooth stack (NOT Widcomm). All of the Linux tools I've seen need the BlueZ stack. Below are a few screen shots from these software packages.

BTScanner for Linux:

BlueScanner For Windows:

As you have probably guessed, if you don't want your device to be found you will choose to disable  "allow discovery", but in versions of Bluetooth before 1.2 (which introduced "anonymity mode" ) it was possible to find cloaked devices by trying to connect to them via their BADDR (a 48 bit which functions more or less like a MAC address does). Ollie Whitehouse wrote a tool called RedFang that will brute-force possible BADDRs and try to connect to them, thus finding them even if they don't reply to a discovery probe. Since then tools like BTScanner for Linux have implemented the same technique (use the b key instead of the i key to start your scan), though I don't think many thieves Bluecasing would use this technique because of the amount of time it takes to iterate through the possible address space. Then again, with multiple dongles and multithreading, the discovery speed could be massively increased. It took a couple of tweaks to get BTScanner to compile on my Linux box so you may just want to use the BackTrack Boot CD. To my knowledge no Windows tools exist that can brute-force the BADDRs, but you can run the BackTrack CD in VMWare Player and use a USB dongle. While BTScanner for Linux is not as pretty as its Windows counterpart it has worked more reliably for me.

Choosing a device

        If your laptop already comes with Bluetooth you will probably just want to use what you have, but if not you need to choose a good Bluetooth dongle to test Bluecasing with. Bluetooth comes in three power classes:

Class Power  Power Range
Class 1 100 mW 20 dBm 100 meters
Class 2  2.5 mW 4 dBm 10 meters
Class 3 1 mW  0 dBm 1 meter

        Obviously, we want to select a device with as much oomph as we can get. I use a MSI Star Key 2.0 USB Bluetooth 2.0 Transceiver because it's power class 1, support Bluetooth 2.0, gives you access to the Widcomm Bluetooth stack if you need it and it runs great under Linux with the BlueZ stack. You may also want to Google around for directions on making directional antennas you can solder on to your Bluetooth dongle, thus increasing it's range.

        Keep in mind that just because someone can find a device does not mean they can exploit it, bonding pins and other security features will most likely keep data intruders at bay (if implemented correctly). However, some phones are susceptible to Bluesnarfing attacks (see the video in the links section) and social engineering via Bluejacking.

Special thanks go out to Nick84 at Rootsecure.net for providing some of the pictures in this article.

Tools and Links

Ollie Whitehouse's article "War Nibbling: Bluetooth Insecurity" kindly mirrored by RootSecure.net

Intro To Bluesnarfing By Williamc and Twinvega


BTScanner for Linux (command line) or Windows XP (GUI)

Trifinite, the best site out there for Bluetooth security information

BlueZ – The official Bluetooth stack for Linux

MSI Star Key 2.0 USB Bluetooth 2.0 Transceiver on New Egg


BackTrack Boot CD

*Bluecasing is a concatenation of Blue (as in Blootooth) and Casing (as in "Casing the joint"). Yes, it's a term I just made up, but it sure does sound good does it not?

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