Researchers from security firm Context have revealed that devices using embedded Bluetooth Low Energy technology, such as in the iPhone and fitness trackers, can be easily tracked from up to 100m way.
Scott Lester, a senior researcher at Context, said: “Many people wearing fitness devices don’t realizae that they are broadcasting constantly and that these broadcasts can often be attributed to a unique device.”
“Using cheap hardware or a smartphone, it could be possible to identify and locate a particular device – that may belong to a celebrity, politician or senior business executive – within 100 meters in the open air.
“This information could be used for social engineering as part of a planned cyber attack or for physical crime by knowing peoples’ movements.”
One example using the app, called Ramble, managed to collect data from almost 150 unique devices in a 30 minute period. These devices included fitness trackers out of FitBit and Jawbone, and the iPhone, which users BLE for its iBeacon technology.
This leak of information likely comes due to the fact that the MAC address doesn’t change for BLE devices in most cases.
“My own fitness tracker has had the same MAC address since we started the investigation, even though it’s completely run out of battery once,” Lester said.
“Sometimes the transmitted packets also contain the device name, which may be unique, such as the ‘Garmin Vivosmart #12345678′, or even give the name of the user, such as ‘Scott’s Watch’.”
“While the ability to detect and track devices may not present a serious risk in itself, it certainly has the potential to compromise privacy and could be part of a wider social engineering threat,” Lester concludes.