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'BLEEDINGBIT' Bluetooth Vulnerability Leaves Enterprises Exposed to Attacks

Security firm Armis has found two, zero-day vulnerabilities in the BLE protocol of Texas Instrument chips that researchers call 'BLEEDINGBIT.'

Larry Loeb

November 5, 2018

3 Min Read

Armis, a security firm which has already found vulnerabilities with Bluetooth, has found two additional zero-day vulnerabilities that can affect 70% to 80% of businesses through Cisco, Meraki and Aruba wireless access points (APs), which are widely used by enterprises.

The BLE protocol -- also known as Bluetooth Smart -- is based on the standard Bluetooth communications protocol but has been modified for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It is used for access point networking, smart home locks, phone as-a-key connected systems, tracking systems as well as medical devices.

Armis detailed these two vulnerabilities, which the firm calls "BLEEDINGBIT," in a a blog post.

(Source: iStock)

(Source: iStock)

One problem (CVE-2018-16986) affects Cisco and Meraki APs that make use of Texas Instruments BLE chips. The Specific chips that are vulnerable include the CC2640 (non-R2) with BLE-STACK version 2.2.1 or earlier, CC2650 with BLE-STACK version 2.2.1 or earlier and CC2640R2 with BLE-STACK version 1.0 or earlier.

TI chips that are not affected include Automotive Qualified CC2640R2F-Q1, CC2540/CC2541 devices on any BLE-STACK version, CC2640R2 SDK version 1.30.00.25 or greater, CC1352/CC26x2 on any supported SDK version and CC2640 or CC2650 on any supported BLE-STACK SDK version 2.2.2. In general, any device configuration that doesn't perform BLE scanning -- that is, a peripheral role or advertiser role -- will not be affected.

However, if there is the vulnerability, the potential attacker can send out multiple benign BLE broadcast messages that are stored on the memory of the chip. If the chip remains powered up, the data remains. It can be later used with an overflow packet to trigger a memory overflow.

The overflow then can be used to remotely execute malicious code.

The APs are that are affected include Cisco's 1542 AP, 1815 AP, 4800 AP, as well as Meraki's MR33, MR30H, MR74 and MR53E, according to Armis.

The second problem (CVE-2018-7080) is a backdoor used by developers to push over-the-air downloads (OAD) of the chip's firmware that has snuck into production devices. It is enabled by a preset password.

Attackers could modify firmware through this, allowing for remote code execution (RCE) and other security problems.

Armis found the backdoor present in Aruba WiFi access point Series 300 systems.

In addition, Armis researchers found that the attacks utilizing Bleedingbit cannot be detected by traditional antivirus tools. However, there are updates to follow:

  • For CVE-2018-16986 mitigation, the TI BLE-STACK update has been released

  • Customers using CC2640 (non-R2) and CC2650 with BLE-STACK version 2.2.1 or earlier should update to version 2.2.2

  • Customers using CC2640R2F, with SimpleLink CC2640R2 SDK version 1.00.00.22 (BLE-STACK 3.0.0) need to update to SimpleLink CC2640R2F SDK version 1.30.00.25 (BLE-STACK 3.0.1) or later

  • Customers using CC1350, with SimpleLink CC13x0 SDK version 2.20.00.38 (BLE-STACK 2.3.3) or earlier will need to update to SimpleLink CC13x0 SDK version 2.30.00.20 (BLE-STACK 2.3.4) or later

However, for the OAD problem, it will depend on manufacturers that have included OAD functionality in their products to rectify it.

This is a chip-level supply chain attack at its root. The chips used in the product have the vulnerability, and the chip is where mitigation efforts must be addressed.

Related posts:

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

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About the Author(s)

Larry Loeb

Blogger, Informationweek

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange. His first Mac had 128 KB of memory, which was a big step up from his first 1130, which had 4 KB, as did his first 1401. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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