Bluetooth LE Security Study Guide

2 min read

Bluetooth technology has been around for more than two decades, and 10 million Bluetooth devices are shipped every day across the world.

There are numerous variables that might explain Bluetooth technology's longevity, but I'm confident that one of them is the way Bluetooth technology has been continually improved and driven by the needs and experience of Bluetooth SIG member companies, making it more versatile and powerful. This applies to its security capabilities as well.

Encryption, authentication, and privacy features, as well as different security processes such as pairing, are all defined in the Bluetooth Core Specification. Certain Bluetooth security features may be required or only recommended in certain devices depending on other specifications which defines the rules for the product type – known as a profile.

However, much of the philosophy behind Bluetooth’s security has been to provide these capabilities as a tool kit that the profile designer, product designer, and software developer must choose from and into their product security to make it fit for purpose . This puts the responsibility on the product manufacturer's team, to analyse their specific security risks, as well as those of the people who will use it, and the conditions in which it will be utilised.

The level of security that a Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) device may achieve, when utilising a stack that complies with the most recent Bluetooth Core Specification, is far higher than what was previously feasible. In version 4.2 of the core specification, for example, Bluetooth LE transitioned to a new and considerably more secure way in which the important device pairing process works, dubbed LE Secure Connections.

Getting to the Top of the Learning Curve

Where and how do you begin if you're new to Bluetooth technology and maybe security in general? How do you know what security features Bluetooth technology provides and how they function? How can you use them in a product?

Previously, the only way to find out was to dive right into the Bluetooth Core Specification. However, the specification is approximately three thousand pages long! Although there are parts specifically about security, the topic appears throughout the specification, so you'll need to be fairly thorough in your review if you want to gain a solid understanding. The learning curve may look high depending on your starting position in terms of past knowledge and experience, and we recognise that some people may feel like they're climbing a big and challenging mountain.

The Bluetooth Low Energy Security Study Guide

To help members choose the appropriate security options for their applications, the Bluetooth SIG regularly publishes study guides, training videos, and a wide variety of other educational material. The Bluetooth LE Security Study Guide makes it easy to get familiar with the common security principles, Bluetooth LE security features, what they are, how they operate, and when you might use them.

This is not a replacement for the Bluetooth Core Specification, which should be used whenever you have a technical issue on how a Bluetooth stack should work. After you've completed part or all of the sections, you'll find that tackling the core specification is a lot easier.

The Bluetooth LE Security Study Guide, as the name implies, focuses solely on Bluetooth LE security, and is designed to be modular, meaning you can easily jump to the next chapter or just read the areas you want to know more about. Before moving on to the relevant part(s) of the core specification, you should be able to use this study guide to save time and effort.

The Bluetooth LE Security Study Guide is for everyone who works with or intends to work with Bluetooth LE in any technical capacity. Appreciating the security features defined by Bluetooth LE and knowing the underlying, industry standard encryption technology on which they are built will help CTOs and Product Managers. Through a series of exercises based on the Zephyr OS and SDK, technical architects will acquire a greater understanding of how these features operate, and software developers will receive hands-on experience implementing some of the major capabilities.
  • You can download the guide from the resources section of the Bluetooth SIG website by following the link below

Author details: Martin Woolley, Senior Developer Relations Manager, EMEA at Bluetooth SIG