For this attack, all a hacker would need is a small hacking device called Flipper Zero which costs $169. It is capable of interacting with the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) protocol which enables wireless data transfers between devices.
The BLE protocol uses advertising packets to help devices make their presence known and can be picked up by any device that has Bluetooth enabled without pairing. Since Apple’s ecosystem consists of numerous interconnected gadgets, it relies heavily on BLE.
Flipper Zero can mimic the BLE advertising packets of legitimate devices and create phantom devices. In such a scenario, an iPhone would get the impression that there are numerous devices around.
While a prankster could use the Flipper Zero to poke some fun at iPhone users by confusing them with fake devices, hackers can use it to carry out a phishing attack by spoofing trusted notifications.
The hacking tool can flood an iPhone with a barrage of pop-ups, asking them to connect to nearby devices such as an AirTag or AirPods. It can become a denial-of-service attack and the constant disruptions can make an iPhone almost unusable.
The exploit only seems to work when Bluetooth is on or switched off only in the Control Center. The attack doesn’t seem to work when Bluetooth is disabled from the Settings. That said, Anthony says that an iPhone is susceptible even when it’s in airplane mode and has advised Apple to take measures to protect its users from such attacks.
Anthony says that it’s possible to carry out an attack that would work over thousands of feet using an amplified board for increasing the range of Bluetooth packet transmission.
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