Burglars may be using your electronic devices’ Bluetooth signal to track down and steal them, according to a recent report.
Wired reports that a rise in laptop and electronic device burglaries in San Francisco and the larger Bay Area has left victims and police wondering if thieves are using Bluetooth scanners to target cars that have devices inside emitting Bluetooth signals. This includes computers, phones, tablets, and various other modern electronic devices.
Jake Williams, the founder of the security firm Rendition Infosec, who often uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scanners in penetration testing, told Wired: “A lot of that has to do with power savings; it depends on what sleep mode different laptops go into when the lid is closed. But I have little doubt that some thieves are using Bluetooth scanners to target devices. It’s trivial to use one, so it’s not like technical knowledge is a limiting factor.”
Wired notes that anyone can easily install a Bluetooth scanner app on their phone, allowing them to find devices broadcasting a Bluetooth signal in the nearby vicinity. These scanning apps can provide information on what type of devices are in the area, if they’re connected to other devices, and how far away they are to within a few meters.
Some, however, don’t think that criminals are taking the time to use such apps and could simply have seen a person leaving a computer bag in the backseat of their car prompting them to break in. Car security researcher Tim Strazzere commented: “If I’m sitting in a parking lot and going to break into a car, and I see someone get out of their car and put something in their trunk, then walk away, would I bother checking my iPhone to see if a Bluetooth beacon is beaconing from that trunk. No. I’m going to smash the window two seconds after they’re out of view, take the bag, walk away, and look at it when I’m out of sight again. Save the time, go fast, grab everything.”
Still, turning off a device’s Bluetooth connection when not in use is usually a simple task and could potentially hide the device from thieves. In nearly all modern smartphones, going to the Settings app shows users a Bluetooth section near the top of the listed options. Simply select it and turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using the connection in order to prevent the device from appearing on Bluetooth scanning apps.