It’d be hard to imagine a more powerful asset for criminals

Thursday, December 26th, 2019

Wes Siler’s friend Joe had his MacBook and iPad stolen from the back of a locked car over Thanksgiving:

So far, so normal, right? Well, the thieves only broke the small window immediately adjacent to where his devices were hidden and only took the backpack containing them. Police told him it was likely they’d used a Bluetooth scanner to target his car and even located exactly where his devices were before breaking into it.

When he texted me about what happened, I turned to Google to see what a Bluetooth scanner was and immediately found dozens of smartphone apps. The first one I downloaded didn’t just show me the signal strengths it detected, it also listed the specific types of devices and even displayed pictures of them—you know, for easy identification. Using signal strength as a distance meter, I found the phone my fiancée misplaced before she went to work. Another app displayed a live list of the devices commuters had in their cars while driving past my house. These apps are free and take no technical know-how or experience whatsoever to use. While they aren’t designed specifically to aid thieves (developers need tools like these when designing Bluetooth accessories), it’d be hard to imagine a more powerful asset for criminals.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    Never spend lots of money on something that can be easily stolen or easily damaged. If they’re going to steal my laptop, a two-year-old Chromebook is good enough for them.

    Yes, I encrypt. And have backups. And encrypt the backups.

  2. CVLR says:

    I first wrote “…or governments.”

    Then I remembered that a government can now trivially deploy hundreds or thousands of inexpensive, inconspicuous, smartphone-type cameras in a public space, and hook them all up to a facial recognition API.

    Thanks, DARPA. Love you.

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