Bluetooth Low Energy gets new security features

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Bluetooth Special Interest Group has ratified a new version of the Bluetooth Low Energy standard (which the SIG calls Bluetooth Smart) that adds new security features preventing people from sniffing out your Bluetooth signal and using it to track your phone and devices as you move about.

The new version of the standard, called Bluetooth 4.2, essentially hides the media access control (MAC) address every Bluetooth devices uses as an identifier. The feature is optional, so devices that are intended to broadcast their identities for authentication and location purposes — beacons, for instance — can share their IDs freely. But if you’re just a regular Joe wandering around with a smartphone or activity tracker, you won’t have to worry about devices you haven’t authorized using your MAC address to keep tabs on you.

The 4.2 specification contains other updates as well, but they mainly extend classic Bluetooth features ratified last year in the 4.1 standard to Bluetooth Low Energy. The SIG claims, for instance, that BLE is getting a speed boost, though the organization refused to provide any specific numbers. With 4.2 also comes a new Bluetooth profile the SIG promised last year that will allow BLE sensors and devices to connect directly to the internet of things with an IPv6 address.

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Gustavo

The security features are very welcome, since Bluetooth v4.0 and v4.1 are vulnerable. The increase in throughput is also good, but will suck down a battery quickly.

Some of these changes require hardware upgrades to chipsets, so the rollout will be slower unfortunately.

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