Another kind of Bluesnarfing: The Times Online reported yesterday that
[t]hieves are using Bluetooth technology to scour parked cars for mobile phones and laptop computers, police believe. The wireless software allows users to detect any mobile phones, PCs, palmtop computers and camcorders that are equipped with Bluetooth within a radius of 50m (160ft).
Of course this is not completely true: The gadgets must be turned on, have their Bluetooth activated and be ‘discoverable’ (although if I recall correctly there are ways around this last bit). I’m guessing that this is the same story reported in engadget last week that quoted the South Manchester Reporter as saying
crooks in south Manchester are targeting parked cars that contain high-end laptops or cellphones, which they find by carrying a Bluetooth phone as they stroll past the cars. Local police claim that at least 20 recent thefts involved Bluetooth. While we suppose there may be some credence to this, we think it’s equally possible that some laptop owners forgot that they had left their computer sitting on the back seat, or that the thieves took a chance on certain car models that are favored by those with the cash to spend on expensive gear.
It certainly does raise the question: How do the police know the thieves are using Bluetooth? Have they arrested some and asked them how they knew there was a device inside the car? How would they know which car is emitting a Bluetooth signal, unless it’s the only one in a 10 meter (or greater) radius? (In which case, why not break into it anyway? You’re probably the only people around.) And, especially if the car is Bluetooth-enabled, as many cars are, how would the thieves know what they’re looking for? Unless the Bluetooth-enabled device has the gadget name as its ID, rather than a user-assigned one — mine’s called ‘Hands Off’ — the thieves are likely to be none the wiser about whether they’re looking for a Bluetooth-enabled car, video, phone, computer or a headset. (Of course many devices nowadays don’t allow you to change the ID name: Another good reason to allow this.)
Here’s the original report (which charmingly refers to the wireless standard as blue-tooth, which is why it doesn’t pop up in search engines). Here’s an excerpt:
Thieves are using new ‘blue-tooth’ phones to detect whether motorists have left mobiles or laptops in their cars. The ‘blue-tooth’ facility enables thieves to locate compatible electrical items – even if they are hidden away in a boot or glove compartment. Police say the new technology is allowing criminals to selectively steal from cars with expensive laptops and mobile phones which also have ‘blue-tooth’ facilities.
In Chorlton, police estimate that out of the last 35 recorded vehicle crimes, at least 20 involved the use of these high-tech phones. Sergeant Imran Abbasi, of Chorlton Police, said: “It’s become quite endemic in Chorlton. They’re not picking cars out at random – in many cases they know there’s something in there.”
I’m skeptical, but not completely disbelieving. I can understand why this might work, or at least narrow down the range of options for a thief. Next time I’m in a car park I’m going to get out my Kensington WiFi Finder Plus (which searches for Bluetooth too) and see what’s worth nicking. I mean connecting with.