Bugs in billions of WiFi, Bluetooth chips allow password, data theft


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Aug 17, 2014
Researchers at the University of Darmstadt, Brescia, CNIT, and the Secure Mobile Networking Lab, have published a paper that proves it's possible to extract passwords and manipulate traffic on a WiFi chip by targeting a device's Bluetooth component.
Modern consumer electronic devices such as smartphones feature SoCs with separate Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE components, each with its own dedicated security implementation. However, these components often share the same resources, such as the antenna or wireless spectrum.
This resource sharing aims to make the SoCs more energy-efficient and give them higher throughput and low latency in communications.
As the researchers detail in the recently published paper, it is possible to use these shared resources as bridges for launching lateral privilege escalation attacks across wireless chip boundaries. The implications of these attacks include code execution, memory readout, and denial of service.
According to the researchers, though, fixing the identified issues has been slow and inadequate, and the most dangerous aspect of the attack remains largely unfixed.
"Over-the-air attacks via the Bluetooth chip, is not mitigated by current patches. Only the interface Bluetooth daemon→Bluetooth chip is hardened, not the shared RAM interface that enables Bluetooth chip→WiFi chip code execution. It is important to note that the daemon→chip interface was never designed to be secure against attacks." - reads the technical paper.
"For example, the initial patch could be bypassed with a UART interface overflow (CVE-2021-22492) in the chip's firmware until a recent patch, which was at least applied by Samsung in January 2021. Moreover, while writing to the Bluetooth RAM via this interface has been disabled on iOS devices, the iPhone 7 on iOS 14.3 would still allow another command to execute arbitrary addresses in RAM."
Bleeping Computer has reached out to all vendors and asked for a comment on the above, and we will update this post as soon as we hear back.