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Technology

Critical Bluetooth flaw exposes your phone to malware – here’s how to patch it

Computer hacks are old news. Phone hacks, regardless of operating system, are the hot new challenge for ambitious criminals. On the whole, it’s trickier to crack a smartphone OS, that’s why it’s such an issue when a major exploit is found.

Oftentimes, smartphone hacks will come from software the user is tricked into downloading. Malicious apps from Google’s own Play Store are some of the first things that come to mind. Tap or click here to see the latest batch of malware found on Google Play.

However, operating system vulnerabilities are a much bigger deal. They can affect millions of users around the world if not addressed properly. And now, a new security flaw has been discovered in Bluetooth on older Android phones that can let a hacker waltz right in to steal your data. It’s time to protect yourself.

A nasty Bluetooth bug

Researchers from Germany’s Technische Universität Darmstadt discovered a flaw in Android’s Bluetooth configuration that allows hackers to inject custom code without a user knowing.

If left unaddressed, this could allow undetectable, short-distance cyberattacks against millions of Android users around the world.

Coincidentally, only older versions of Android seem to be affected. Android 10 lacks the vulnerability and is considered safe to use with Bluetooth turned on. A hacker could still attempt to attack you, but all that would happen is a Bluetooth crash.

But it’s a different story if you’re on Android 9 Pie, Android 8/8.1 Oreo or earlier software. With the flaw out in the open, a hacker can instantly connect to your phone and mess things up. Researchers say updating your phone is the only real way to stay safe.

Well, that and keeping Bluetooth off when you’re out and about.

How can I protect myself from this bug?

Beating the hack is as simple as turning Bluetooth off.

In order for hackers to execute the attack, they need to know your phone’s specific MAC address, which is a kind of device identifier. This address is broadcast when Bluetooth is on and trying to pair with a device.

To turn off Bluetooth, swipe down from the top of the screen two times to open the Quick Settings panel. Alternatively, you can swipe down using two fingers. Tap the Bluetooth icon to disable it, and tap it again to re-enable.

For newer phones, simply update to Android 10. If the update isn’t available for your phone, you may need to wait for a manufacturer security patch. These will likely be coming down the pipeline in the next several months.

To see if any Android updates are available, Open the Settings app and select About Phone. Then, tap Check for Updates and install any that are available. This will keep you up to date with the latest security enhancements.

Ultimately, more of these kinds of hacks are bound to crop up in the future. But staying ahead of the game with updates and account privacy checkups can set you up for success. Tap or click here to learn how to give your devices a quick privacy checkup.

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