Security Corner

Mar 25 2008   6:58PM GMT

Wireless Headset Security Nightmare

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun


Wireless headsetBeing a Ham Radio operator, I’ve always understood the risk inherent in using radio signals to transmit sensitive information: anyone with the right equipment can receive and record anything transmitted over the air. These days, I’m noticing a lot of people in various offices walking around with these cute wireless headsets hooked up to their office phones.

Ever wondered what kind of security risk these things might pose to your company? Yeah, me too. So, did the folks at Secure Network Technologies as evidenced by their article “Hacking Wireless Headsets” that appeared Jan. 22, 2008 at, a site that provides in-depth security news and analysis. Here’s an excerpt:

To perform the work, we purchased a commercially available radio scanner. These devices are available at any local electronics retailer at prices ranging from $80 to several thousand dollars. We chose a scanner capable of monitoring frequencies from 900-928 Mhz and the 1.2 Ghz ranges, which is where many of the popular hands-free headsets operate.

We took a position across the street from the facility and started up the scanner. Within seconds of turning on the device we were able to listen to conversations that appeared to be coming from our client’s employees. Several of these conversations discussed the business in detail, as well as very sensitive topics. After some careful listening, we determined that the conversations were indeed coming from our customer.

See the nightmare coming? With the right information you can then use social engineering techniques to get your tentacles very deep into the company. And that’s exactly what they did:

Our plan was to assume an identity of an employee who had never been to the office we were testing. Using that identity, we would enter the building, commandeer a place to sit and work, then see how long we could stay inside the building. After zeroing in on a particular employee, we gathered as much intelligence on him as we could. To prepare for the entry into the facility, we printed a business card with our assumed identity. I put on my best suit, and then went to work.

In all, they spent three days “working” in the company, gaining access to all sorts of information, technology, and resources. Not only that, but they also discovered that the headsets acted as bugging devices; even when disconnected, the headsets continued to transmit. The impersonators were able to listen in on conversations carried on by the wearers.

Be afraid. Be very afraid 😉 Seriously, read the article and if your office uses these things, do your own tests to find out where you’re leaking. Then, plug the leaks.

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