After 12 years and 17 production runs, Great Scott Gadgets is retiring our first product, Ubertooth One, from our hardware catalog.
GSG’s founder Michael Ossmann designed Ubertooth One because he wanted a device that could detect and monitor Bluetooth. At the time, such instruments existed but cost at least five figures—prohibitively expensive for most security researchers. His goal was to design an open-source, affordable-to-make tool that anyone in the security community with basic soldering skills could assemble. At the project’s inception, his intent was not to sell hardware but to provide a solution to a problem that no one else had solved. However, demand from the community prompted him to start GSG and launch a Kickstarter campaign that funded the first production.
Ubertooth One enabled more than starting a company; it became an essential part of the wireless security professional’s toolkit and aided research that improved Bluetooth security and function. One notable example is Mike Ryan’s Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) security research. Through this work, Mike contributed BLE capabilities to Ubertooth and became a core developer of the project. More recently, Ubertooth One was instrumental in research into Apple’s Continuity protocol presented by Sam Teplov at ShmooCon in January 2020. Over the years, Ubertooth has equipped researchers to improve the Bluetooth protocol’s function and reverse engineer countless Bluetooth devices and even non-Bluetooth 2.4 GHz wireless systems such as electric skateboards. Talking to Michael this week about his journey with Ubertooth, I learned of an encounter at a conference in Asia where a stranger approached him and said “Thank you for Ubertooth. I couldn’t have done my Master’s thesis without it.”
At the time Ubertooth One was designed, BLE didn’t yet exist. The protocol now known as Bluetooth Classic was the only Bluetooth protocol. It was common for Bluetooth devices to operate in non-discoverable mode, making them invisible to all but the most expensive monitoring tools. Ubertooth One made it possible to detect and identify non-discoverable Bluetooth devices, an essential function for wireless security practitioners and researchers. Today, most Bluetooth devices use BLE rather than Bluetooth Classic, and several low-cost options are available for monitoring BLE. For more esoteric capabilities, including the detection of non-discoverable Bluetooth Classic devices, researchers can use Software Defined Radio platforms such as HackRF One to implement the same functions as Ubertooth. Even though Ubertooth is still a valuable and widely adopted tool, it is no longer the only option.
When the global chip shortage struck, our small team faced difficult choices about which products to redesign for available components. After considering changes in the Bluetooth landscape, the amount of redesign effort required, and the work cycles available to our team, we decided it was time to retire Ubertooth One. Consistent with our mission, we will continue to prioritize making and maintaining tools that, like Ubertooth in the early years, allow innovative people to do things they haven’t previously been able to do.
Even though we are now sold out of Ubertooth One, you may still be able to buy a unit made by GSG while reseller stock lasts. The Ubertooth project is open source, so if you can’t purchase an Ubertooth One, you are welcome to use the design files in the project repository to make your own. We will continue to monitor the repository for issues and pull requests, but we have no plans for hardware or software enhancements.
The Ubertooth project has meant a great deal to Great Scott Gadgets, and we’d like to sincerely thank our users, our resellers, and all the people who have supported us and contributed to the project over the years for coming on this journey with us. Special thanks to Dominic Spill, who started gr-bluetooth, which was foundational to Project Ubertooth; Jared Boone, who mentored Michael in the original hardware design; and Mike Ryan, who made significant contributions to the project. If you have any stories you’d like to share about Ubertooth One, please come tell them in the Great Scott Gadgets Discord server or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.