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AirDefense sleuths for Bluetooth snoopers

It's easier than ever for hackers to use Bluetooth to steal corporate data, but a new monitoring tool from AirDefense can identify rogue data transmissions before business secrets drift out the door.

Bluetooth, the short-range wireless technology now embedded in laptops and cell phones, has already proven to be a potentially serious wireless security threat. Now a new tool has been announced that helps businesses address that threat.

Today, AirDefense Inc. announced the availability of AirDefense BlueWatch, a radio frequency monitor that can be mounted on a laptop to watch an enterprise's airwaves for Bluetooth activity.

Though Bluetooth is meant to be a short-range technology with a radius of about 30 feet, new adapters can boost the signal, enabling people to snoop via Bluetooth from greater distances. In addition, Bluetooth communications are not automatically encrypted, and therefore can make a laptop -- or even a network -- vulnerable to attack, said Peter Lindstrom, research director with Malvern, Penn.-based research firm, Spire Security LLC.

BlueWatch can identify what kind of devices are using Bluetooth, roughly where they are based on their signal strength, whether they have connected with another device and whether they are set up to transport files, music or other forms of data.

"Connectivity is wide open on Bluetooth devices," said Jay Chaudhry, chairman and founder of Alpharetta, Ga.-based AirDefense. "The issue is whether there are accidental pairings or if something else going on."

This kind of monitoring is an important first step for assessing the threat that any business might face because of Bluetooth, Lindstrom said, because it allows businesses to learn exactly what Bluetooth activity is occurring. Armed with that information, it's easier to decide whether additional security steps are needed, such as developing policies for Bluetooth use.

"For the most part, Bluetooth is not the most significant security concern," said Lindstrom. "But it can't be ignored."

For more information

Learn why Gartner advises firms to deactivate Bluetooth.

Read how Bluetooth is moving past the hype and into the enterprise.

Leapfrog Services Inc., an Atlanta-based provider of IT and networks services, is beta testing the new AirDefense product. Emmett Hawkins, Leapfrog's chief technology officer, said that many of his customers are unaware of how prevalent Bluetooth is today. However, as provider of outsourced IT services, Hawkins said it is important that Leapfrog monitor its customers' sites for Bluetooth activity.

"It helps us to craft network security policies," he said.

BlueWatch is only available as a notebook module that can be used for periodic suite surveys. However, future iterations will likely include a permanent wall mounted monitor that allows for constant monitoring of the airwaves, much like AirDefense's Wi-Fi monitoring product does today.

With as many as a billion Bluetooth-enabled products expected to be in circulation by the middle of 2006, Lindstrom said he expects more products like BlueWatch will soon hit the market.

BlueWatch is available for $295.

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