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In a situation where an admin will enter sensitive information into a keyboard (the root password), what is the risk that a bluetooth keyboard (ship by default with Mac systems these days) would put those passwords at risk?

Another way of asking would be: what security and encryption protocols are used, if any, to establish a bluetooth connection between a keyboard and host system?

Edit: Final Summary

All answers are excellent. I accepted that which links to the most directly applicable information however I also encourage you to read Nathan Adams's response and discussion about security trade-offs.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

While Bluetooth has its benefits, it is susceptible to denial of service attacks, eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, message modification, and resource misappropriation.

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It also says, "Bluetooth v2.1 – finalized in 2007 with consumer devices first appearing in 2009 – makes significant changes to Bluetooth's security", and the "History of security concerns" section doesn't have anything after 2.1 was published. Are the problems you mentioned still active, or did 2.1 fix them? – Ian Dunn Jan 13 '15 at 18:23
My preferred source of IT gutter news has this: 2007-12: Microsoft wireless keyboards crypto cracked, 2010-02: Kit attacks Microsoft keyboards (and a whole lot more), 2015-01: This $10 phone charger will wirelessly keylog your boss. Looks like a good idea to stay wired but at least stay away from Microsoft's homegrown stuff. – David Tonhofer Apr 2 '15 at 8:52

Although bluetooth may not be the most secure protocol, you have to put things in perspective: Bluetooth has a relativity short transmit range. This means that if you were to use bluetooth keyboards in a building, a person would have to be in the same room or close to the room to actually do anything malicious.

Just because a certain technology is insecure, doesn't mean that it is useless.

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The assumption that bluetooth's short range is some sort of protection to what sort of damage can be done through it is false. If someone hacks a computer which happens to have a bluetooth radio that hacker can now exploit bluetooth from anywhere in the world. This could be a way of getting other passwords, which may have more privileges or to own other machines near by. – 3dinfluence Apr 30 '10 at 22:58
@3d, they are still limited by the devices that connect to the bluetooth transmitter on the computer though. Also, if the hacker had access to the whole system, setting up a keylogger via the bluetooth would be breaking your shoulder to scratch your back. There are easier ways and much less painful ways to do it. – David Rickman May 1 '10 at 1:15
Both are good points. If I get spyware on my laptop and then take it to work, even if I plug in to the "visitors" LAN I might put more sensitive systems at risk--in theory (although you don't see many bluetooth keyboards in data centers). On the other hand, when I SSH from home, I feel safe using a bluetooth keyboard because my neighbors, even if they are script kiddies, probably cannot put my systems at much risk. An internet cafe is somewhere in the middle. As with everything, proper risk-assessmet is key. – jhs May 1 '10 at 10:40
@3dinfluence Again, we need to put things into perspective, if a person hacked into a computer they would be more interested in installing a keylogger than sniffing the bluetooth devices. Because in the end, its easier and any keys they type on the keyboard will be logged. – Nathan Adams May 1 '10 at 12:35
Just depends on what the goals are. More and more hacks are targeted attacks. I don't think this is something that your typical drive by malware type of hacker who is just looking to setup a bot net is going to do. – 3dinfluence May 1 '10 at 14:29

I'd suggest looking at this publication by the NIST. It provides some pretty useful information on Bluetooth security. The encryption protocol of bluetooth is E0 which is 128 bit.

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