Android Open-Source Project

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To defeat security threats such as man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4.2 and 5.x introduce the Secure Connections Only mode, under which a BLE device accepts only secure paring protocols including Passkey Entry and Numeric Comparison from an initiator, e.g., an Android mobile. However, the BLE specification does not explicitly require the Secure Connection Only mode of the initiator. Taking the Android's BLE programming framework for example, we found that it cannot enforce secure pairing, invalidating the security protection provided by the Secure Connection Only mode. The same problem applies to Apple iOS too. Specifically, we examine the life cycle of a BLE pairing process in Android and identify four severe design flaws. These design flaws can be exploited by attackers to perform downgrading attacks, forcing the BLE pairing protocols to run in the insecure mode without the users' awareness. To validate our findings, we selected and tested 18 popular BLE commercial products and our experimental results proved that downgrading attacks and MITM attacks were all possible to these products. All 3501 BLE apps from Androzoo are also subject to these attacks. For defense, we have designed and implemented a prototype of the Secure Connection Only mode on Android 8 through the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). We have reported the identified BLE pairing vulnerabilities to Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Google, Apple, Texas Instruments (TI) and all of them are actively addressing this issue. Google rated the reported security flaw a High Severity.

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