Apple Releases Firmware Updates for AirPods and Beats Headphones to Fix Serious Bluetooth Security Issue

Apple AirPods Gen 2 with charging case
Apple AirPods Gen 2 with charging case

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The firmware fixes a vulnerability that hackers could exploit to access your headphones.

Key Highlights:

  • Apple released firmware updates to address a Bluetooth authentication issue in AirPods and Beats headphones.
  • The vulnerability could have allowed attackers in Bluetooth range to spoof devices and gain access to the user’s headphones.
  • Users whose AirPods and Beats headphones are paired with their iPhones, iPads, or Macs will receive the updates automatically.

Apple has released crucial firmware updates for their AirPods and Beats wireless headphones. According to Apple’s support document, the updates were released on April 11, 2023, for AirPods and May 2, 2023, for Beats headphones. Essentially, they’re designed to address a security issue that could have allowed attackers in Bluetooth range to gain access to a user’s headphones.

How the Bluetooth Security Issue Puts Your Data At Risk

Airpods Max have a distinct design language.
Airpods Max

The vulnerability, identified as CVE-2023-27964, affects the AirPods (2nd generation and later), AirPods Pro (all models), AirPods Max, Powerbeats Pro, and Beats Fit Pro.

This particular issue exploits an authentication flaw with previously paired devices. As such, when a user’s headphones seek to connect to a paired device, an attacker within Bluetooth range could spoof the intended source device and gain access to the headphones.

Bluetooth spoofing is a relatively new Bluetooth security risk first identified by Purdue University researchers in 2020. It poses a number of potential threats involving private data leaking and spying.

The Bluetooth security issue was discovered by Google ChromeOS researchers Yun-hao Chung and Archie Pusaka. Both were credited in Apple’s support document for their work in identifying the vulnerability and improving the overall security of their devices.

With the latest firmware updates, 5E133 (AirPods) and 5B66 (Beats), this issue was resolved through improved state management.

How to Update Your Firmware to Resolve This Security Flaw

Using AirPods with Apple TV
Using AirPods with Apple TV

Users that have paired their Beats wireless headphones or AirPods with an iPhone, iPad, or Mac will receive the firmware updates automatically. However, their headphones must be within Bluetooth range of the said devices and plugged into a charger.

To check the current firmware version of the wireless headphones, users can go to their devices’ Bluetooth settings. Here’s a quick guide on how:

On an iPhone or iPad, users can navigate to Settings > Bluetooth, whereas on a Mac, they can go to System Preferences > Bluetooth. From there, users can tap the info button next to their headphones to view the firmware version.

As part of Apple’s customer protection policy, the company does not disclose or discuss security issues until an investigation has taken place and patches or releases are made available. Apple also recommends users stay up-to-date on the latest releases by regularly checking the Apple security updates page.

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