The KNOB is Broken: Exploiting Low Entropy in the Encryption Key Negotiation of Bluetooth BR/EDR


We present an attack on the encryption key negotiation protocol of Bluetooth BR/EDR. The attack allows a third party, without knowledge of any secret material (such as link and encryption keys), to make two (or more) victims agree on an encryption key with only 1 byte (8 bits) of entropy. Such low entropy enables the attacker to easily brute force the negotiated encryption keys, decrypt the eavesdropped ciphertext, and inject valid encrypted messages (in real-time). The attack is stealthy because the encryption key negotiation is transparent to the Bluetooth users. The attack is standard-compliant because all Bluetooth BR/EDR versions require to support encryption keys with entropy between 1 and 16 bytes and do not secure the key negotiation protocol. As a result, the attacker completely breaks Bluetooth BR/EDR security without being detected. We call our attack Key Negotiation Of Bluetooth (KNOB) attack. The attack targets the firmware of the Bluetooth chip because the firmware (Bluetooth controller) implements all the security features of Bluetooth BR/EDR. As a standard-compliant attack, it is expected to be effective on any firmware that follows the specification and on any device using a vulnerable firmware. We describe how to perform the KNOB attack, and we implement it. We evaluate our implementation on more than 14 Bluetooth chips from popular manufacturers such as Intel, Broadcom, Apple, and Qualcomm. Our results demonstrate that all tested devices are vulnerable to the KNOB attack. We discuss countermeasures to fix the Bluetooth specification and its implementation.

USENIX Security Symposium