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Analyzing BLE

1. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) internals

  • Attribute Protocol (ATT)
    • defines the client/server protocol for data exchange
  • Generic Attribute Profile (GATT)
    • handles the entire exchange of all user data and profile information in a BLE connection
  • Generic Access Profile (GAP)
    • responsible for all the discovery and related aspects in any BLE network
  • Profile
    • Specifies data stored on a device for a BLE connection
    • Profile 1
      • Service A (i.e. Hearth rete in UUID format)
        • Characteristic
          • Value
          • Descriptor
        • Characteristic
          • Value
          • Descriptor
      • Service B (i.e. Blood pressure in UUID format)
        • Characteristic
          • Value
          • Descriptor
        • Characteristic
          • Value
          • Descriptor
    • Profile 2
  • Service
    • Structure

      attr handle (first handle id for the service)
      end grp handle (last handle id for the service)
      uuid (first 8-digit from left hand side specifies service name)
    • All UUIDs and corresponding service names

      • Bluetooth SIG documentation
      • custom servises are not defined in here
  • Characteristics
    • Structure
      • handle
      • char properties
      • char value handle
      • uuid
    • Value:Descriptor is a hex encoded ASCII data
  • BLE authentication (association process)
    • Broadcaster device
      • broadcast to announce availability
      • collect and monitor data
    • Observer device
      • observe broadcasts
      • if it is an interested broadcast, send a connection request to the peripheral
    • Peripheral device
      • if peripheral accepts the request, observer and peripheral are connected
      • based on the pairing mechanism
      • data transmission starts each other
  • Pairing mechanisms (Pairing encryption)
    • JustWorks (JW)
      • without display or small display without keyboard
      • key is 000000
    • Numeric comparison
      • shows the same number on both devices
      • asks for yes or no
    • Passkey
      • 6-digit passcode
      • (easy to brute force)
    • Out of band
      • shares the pin using an out of band channel like NFC

2. BLE pentest objectives

  • Sniffing
  • Reading
  • Modifying characteristics (change behavior of the device by remotely controlling)

3. Interacting with BLE devices

  • Plug in BLE adapter dongle on analysis computer
  • Get Blootooth Address (BD_ADDR)


  • Search for BLE devices around (via hcitool or Blue Hydra)

    hcitool lescan

  • Connect to target beacon (via Gatttool utility)

    gatttool -I -b <beacon address>

  • List the BLE services


  • List the service characteristics


  • Read characteristics value and descriptor

    char-read-hnd <char value handle>

  • Decode hex to ASCII

4. Modify data

  • In order to modify something, functionality of the device is well-understand
  • Then how these functionality is stored on device as values are identified
  • Example I
    • BLE devices disconnects from mobile application in every X seconds
    • Then re-connects again, this mechanism is known as heart-beat
    • If heartbeat does not happen, a notification appears or sound triggered
    • Attacker may want to modify the connection time to unlimited
    • Therefore mobile app will not identify BLE device is stolen or broken
  • Example II
    • mobile app tracks the distance of an object
    • if it goes across the range, mobile app makes a buzzer
    • attacker may want to prevent buzzer not to notice owner
  • List all handles

    chr-desc <attr handle> <end group handle>

  • Check for Bluetooth SIG documentation (to understand functionality)
    • identify services defined by manufacturers and by SIG
  • Read characteristics value and descriptor

    char-read-hnd <char value handle>

  • Update characteristics value and descriptor

    char-write-hnd <char value handle> <a char value same as to original format>

5. Sniffing BLE traffic

  • In order to understand the functionality of services defined by manufacturers
    • sniff the BLE traffic
    • press any buttons of the device to capture functionality
  • Ubertooth One
    • download and install ubertooth utility
    • sniff traffic

      ubertooth-btle -f -t <target device BD_ADDR>

    • sniff traffic and dump into a pcap file

      ubertooth-btle -f -t <target device BD_ADDR> - c ble-dump.pcap

    • Relevant data

      Access address (AA) used to manage link layer
      Channel Index dedicated advertising channel
      AdvA 6-byte advertising address (usually BD_ADDR of the device)
      ScanA 6-byte scanner address
    • Advertising PDUs

      ADV_IND Connectable Undirected Advertising
      ADV_DIRECT_IND Connectable Directed Advertising
      ADV_NONCONN_IND Non-Connectable Undirected Advertising
      ADV_SCAN_IND Scannable Undirected Advertising
    • Scanning PDUs

      SCAN_REQ Scan request from the mobile app
      SCAN_RSP Scan response from the target device
    • Initiating PDUs

      CONNECT_REQ Connection request
    • Wireshark
      • set DLT_USER (in Preferences > Protocols) to btle
      • filter only ATT packets


      • set DLT_USER (in Preferences > Protocols) to btle
      • filter Write requests
        • find the data is written to which Handle
      • examine the interested packet containing write request
        • BLE Link Layer
        • Bluetooth Attribute Protocol
          • Understand Value field
      • compare Value field of different packets to identify which bits change
        • the changed field are the user actions
      • determine your Value
    • Replay packet
      • BTLEJuice utility (web GUI)
        • sniffs/modifies/replays BLE packets
    • Write the value to the device
      • gatttool “char-write-req”

Division of Network and Systems Engineering | KTH