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Beware: A Pocket-Sized Gadget Can Hack Your iPhone

Beware: A Pocket-Sized Gadget Can Hack Your iPhone

The Flipper Zero hacking device can flood nearby iPhones with Bluetooth pop-up messages.

Imagine your iPhone being bombarded with relentless pop-up notifications, rendering it nearly unusable. Thanks to the nifty Flipper Zero hacking device, such a nightmare scenario has become a reality for Apple users.

Meet the Flipper Zero, a compact and affordable tool capable of spamming iPhones with an onslaught of Bluetooth pop-up messages. A security researcher, who goes by the alias Anthony, recently demonstrated this cyber onslaught, deeming it a "Bluetooth advertising assault." This technique is a form of denial-of-service attack that can disrupt the otherwise seamless Apple experience.

Using modified Flipper Zero firmware, Anthony harnessed Bluetooth Advertisements, a transmission method within the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol, extensively utilized by Apple for device connections, AirDrop file sharing, and more. These advertisements serve as broadcast signals, broadcasting a device's presence and capabilities.

TechCrunch put Anthony's attack to the test and successfully bombarded an iPhone 8 and a newer iPhone 14 Pro with simulated pop-up messages. By compiling Anthony's proof-of-concept code into a Flipper Zero device, TechCrunch replicated the attack by simply activating Bluetooth on the Flipper Zero, sending out pop-up signals to nearby iPhones.

The proof-of-concept code was used to mimic an AirTag's presence and to initiate a phone number transfer dialog. While the attack range was limited to close proximity for AirTag simulation, the phone number transfer dialog exploit could reach multiple iPhones across a room.

Crucially, the Flipper Zero attack worked on iPhones with Bluetooth both enabled and disabled via the Control Center, although it failed when Bluetooth was completely turned off from the Settings menu.

Recently, security researchers have been highlighting the potential for malicious hackers to exploit Bluetooth vulnerabilities on iPhones. During the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, attendees were unnerved by an expert who used a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W-based contraption to make alerts appear on their iPhones, mimicking an Apple TV and causing distress.

Anthony has also developed a more powerful attack technique, capable of operating over vast distances using an "amplified board" to extend the Bluetooth packet range. However, he refrained from sharing the details due to concerns about potential misuse over extended distances.

To mitigate these Bluetooth attacks, Apple could enhance security measures by verifying the legitimacy of connecting Bluetooth devices and reducing the range at which iDevices can establish Bluetooth connections with other devices. At present, Apple has not commented on the matter.