Should you be concerned about being hacked through your phone’s Bluetooth? This is the question many people are asking after it became news that US Vice President Kamala Harris avoids Bluetooth earphones due to hacking concerns.
In this article, we will examine how Bluetooth hacking works, and whether you should be concerned.
The Vice President and her wired earphones
If you followed Harris in the media, you would notice the first female VP of the US always used wired earphones. Even during her campaign, you wouldn’t see her sporting a trendy pair of earpods. In fact, three of her aides during the campaign told POLITO that she firmly refused to get a pair of Bluetooth-connected buds for security reasons.
That, however, is not the only aspect of phone usage that Harris is extremely careful with as she prefers to send an SMS instead of sending an email.
While it is comforting to have a Vice President that cares deeply about security, is it necessary?
Can Bluetooth be exploited by hackers?
Bluetooth is common in electronic devices today. You will find them inside smartphones, laptops, smartwatches, keyboards, and even on some electric motorcycles.
While very useful for connecting two or more devices, Bluetooth can be hacked, and this puts the data or information being passed between the connected devices at the risk of being intercepted.
More maliciously, Bluetooth hackers can gain access to your device through Bluetooth and take control of it. With access accomplished, the hackers can install their own code, which will allow them to make use of the phone’s hardware. They can listen in on your phone conversations or turn on the microphone and use the phone to hear conversations going on.
Hackers can do more than listen to and through your phone when the Bluetooth is compromised. They can use Bluetooth to take advantage of the vulnerabilities on some phone models, enabling them to lift crucial information, especially when the phone owner uses the device for work.
Even thieves can use Bluetooth to locate and target devices. They simply monitor phones with broadcasting Bluetooth signals, for example, in a car park, and break in through the window to steal the phone. Many times, they are also able to steal wallets, purses, briefcases, and other personal items.
So, while it is true that phones can be hacked through Bluetooth, how like is it for such an attack to take place and succeed?
How likely is Bluetooth to be hacked?
Due to the nature of Bluetooth, any attack through it requires the criminals to be near the phone. The technology usually requires two devices to be within 30 feet of each other, which places some limitations on what the attacker can do. However, there have been reported cases of Bluetooth attacks taking place over a distance of 300 feet, but they are scarce.
Should you be worried about being hacked through Bluetooth?
For Harris, it is very difficult to get that close to her without being detected because of her security detail. However, due to the level of sensitivity of some of the information she is privileged to, or has to discuss with other people, she can’t be too careful.
If you do not have as weighty responsibilities as the Vice President, you might not need to be as worried about the Bluetooth on your phone. Except you head NASA, or the product development team at Apple, or some similar job functions, your conversations might not be irresistible enough for Bluetooth hackers to target you.
However, if you feel the conversations between you and your teenage daughter or beer buddies are worth going the extra mile to protect, turn off your Bluetooth when you don’t use it, and stick to wired earphones.