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ID: 135388


Date: 2019-05-15

Google warns Bluetooth Titan security keys can be hijacked by nearby hackers

Attackers can connect their own device to Bluetooth-enabled keys used for 2fa. Google is warning that the Bluetooth Low Energy version of the Titan security key it sells for two-factor authentication can be hijacked by nearby attackers, and the company is advising users to get a free replacement device that fixes the vulnerability. A misconfiguration in the keys Bluetooth pairing protocols makes it possible for attackers within 30 feet to either communicate with the key or with the device its paired with, Google Cloud Product Manager Christiaan Brand wrote in a post published on Wednesday. The attack described by Brand involves hijacking the pairing process when an attacker within 30 feet carries out a series of events in close coordination: For the account takeover to succeed, the attacker would also have to know the targets username and password. To tell if a Titan key is vulnerable, check the back of the device. If it has a T1 or T2, its susceptible to the attack and is eligible for a free replacement. Brand said that security keys continued to represent one of the most meaningful ways to protect accounts and advised that people continue to use the keys while waiting for a new one. Titan security keys sell for $50 in the Google Store. While people wait for a replacement, Brand recommended that users use keys in a private place thats not within 30 feet of a potential attacker. After signing in, users should immediately unpair the security key. An Android update scheduled for next month will automatically unpair Bluetooth security keys so users wont have to do it manually. Brand said that iOS 12.3, which Apple started rolling out on Monday, wont work with vulnerable security keys. This has the unfortunate result of locking people out of their Google accounts if they sign out. Brand recommended people not sign out of their account. A good safety measure would be to use a backup authenticator app, at least until a new key arrives, or to skip Brands advice and simply use an authenticator app as the primary means of two-factor authentication. This episode is unfortunate since, as Broad notes, physical security keys remain the strongest protection currently available against phishing and other types of account takeovers. Wednesdays disclosure prompted social media pile-ons from critics of Bluetooth for security-sensitive functions. Like, what kind of idiot protocol lets users negotiate a maximum key size that can be as small as 1 byte. (A default that, fortunately, should be higher in recent versions.) The threat of having the key hijacked and the current incompatibility with the latest release of iOS are sure to generate further user resistance to using the BLE-based keys. The threat also helps explain why Apple and alternative key maker Yubico have long refused to support BLE-enabled keys.