I-TEAM: Your Bluetooth devices can actually make you a target for burglars

Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

(Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's supposed to make your life easier, but our I-Team has learned your Bluetooth devices make you an easier target for crooks.

It basically tells them what you have and where you have it. That's the bad news.

The good news is that we have some simple ways you can protect yourself.

But, before we get to that, let’s explain how Bluetooth works. A would-be crook could be armed with an app that tells them all the nearby devices with a Bluetooth signal. It’s supposed to help you find your lost Bluetooth items.

It's no surprise a special agent at the Cyber Center can detect our gadgets, but Charles Kicklighter isn’t using GBI equipment. He's using a free tool that's available to anyone that basically gives criminals a detailed list of nearby technology.

"The bad guys have found a way to exploit something that's common just about to every device,” Kicklighter said.

Bluetooth can be a treasure map for criminals. Not just telling them what is hidden. It actually shows them where.

Our own testing out in a nearby parking lot didn’t take us long to get some hits. The app can drill down easily to even show you which cars are pumping out a signal.

"Headphones. The ear buds. I mean, anything Bluetooth,” Kicklighter said. “It's going to pick it up."

And that's just in your car. When we were testing it in a parking lot, our I-Team saw signals from as far as 10 meters away. That's more than 30 feet, so it got us thinking. Maybe we could drive through neighborhood streets and find out what’s in each house.

It could also tell us what's in each apartment. We tried that, too.

We didn't even have to get out of our car, and no one seemed to notice us.

Then, there's this: houses are farther apart than two cars in a parking lot, so parking on a neighborhood street made it even easier for us to pinpoint where the signals were originating.

Even scarier, as well as our free app worked, we paid $4.99 to upgrade it. A radar-like feature made it easier to match the location. It's almost too easy.

Luckily, Kicklighter says the solution is almost too easy, too.

“Turn off Bluetooth,” Kicklighter said. “Turn off the device, or put it in airplane mode.”

Yeah, one of those three things.

"It only takes a couple of seconds, 5-10 seconds to do that,” Kicklighter said.

Making sure your high-tech valuables stay off this high-tech list, keeping you off a Bluetooth burglar's radar.

But again, this app was designed to help you find lost stuff but you can also use it to beat criminals at their own game. When you lock your car, check the app just to make certain you aren't sending any Bluetooth signals.

We tested three apps for for this experiment under iOS:

-BLE Scanner
-BLE Nearby
-Bluetooth BLE Device Finder

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