Analyzing iBeacon traffic using nRF BLE Sniffer

I’ve been troubleshooting iBeacons lately, and Bluetooth LE Sniffer from Adafruit is my go-to tool for sniffing Bluetooth LE (BLE) traffic such as iBeacon advertisements. iBeacon detection can vary a lot depending on advertisement interval and timing, and signal strength and its variance with distance, line of sight (or lack thereof), interference with other iBeacons etc.

nRF Sniffer software captures all BLE traffic in libpcap format that can be viewed in Wireshark 2.4. If you’re using an older version of Wireshark, I have ported the native dissector to Lua that should work starting from Wireshark 1.12.

Here’s an iBeacon advertisement dissected using the nordic_ble Lua dissector, and Wireshark’s native btle dissector, on OS X. Note that iBeacon payload proprietary to Apple is not yet decoded by Wireshark’s btle dissector.


Using data from the packet shown above, Apple’s proprietary payload has the following format

02 - ID
15 - Length (21 bytes)
3aa46f0c80784773be800255132aefda - 128-bit UUID
e4f2 - major number
e4c1 - minor number
b6 - two's complement of calibrated TX power

A filter such as contains e4:f2:e4:c1 can be used to filter packets based on major and minor numbers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s