If you own an Android phone and use a Bluetooth accessory (like the wireless Samsung Galaxy Buds or the Google Pixel Buds), you might want to think twice about enabling Bluetooth on your handset. A vulnerability discovered in the Android Bluetooth subsystem
by security firm ERNW allows anyone within Bluetooth range of your device to hack it without your knowledge.
You can be pushing a shopping cart at Walmart, walking in Times Square or enjoying the haute cuisine at Micky D’s while your Android handset is being attacked by a stranger. This is a serious problem because once the hacker is able to rummage through your phone, personal data can be taken and/or malware introduced to the device.
Now there is some good news; the vulnerability doesn’t affect those with Android 10 and the February security update patches the vulnerability. But Android’s fragmentation issue means that even at this late date, there is a good chance that your Android phone is still running Android 8 Oreo or Android 9 Pie; those are the two Android versions affected by this issue while Bluetooth will simply crash on an Android 10 device if hacked. And you might not be able to count on the February security update since many Android phones won’t receive it for months.
The scary thing about this vulnerability is that no user interaction is required for the hacker to gain entry to your phone. If you can’t update to Android 10 or install the February Android security update, ERNW says that there are some things you can do. First, the security firm suggests that if your handset is at-risk, enable Bluetooth only if you absolutely positively must have it on. And you should also keep your device non-discoverable by not opening the Bluetooth scanning menu. But the security firm notes that “some older phones might be discoverable permanently.”
Don’t take this warning lightly. Unless your phone is running Android 10 or has the February security update installed, you might want to think twice about using those wireless Bluetooth earbuds if you’re in an area where others are in close proximity to you.