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The more we rely on Bluetooth in our daily lives, the more vulnerable our personal data becomes.
Like with all technology, hackers are waiting to get their hands on your data.
But don’t worry, there are a few simple things you can do to stay safely connected!
How Bluetooth works
You don’t need to know the physics of waves to understand how Bluetooth devices work and how to use them safely.
Bluetooth devices generate waves of a frequency a little lower than your WiFi generates. This helps them be more energy efficient.
Your mobile device and earbuds are embedded with sensors to detect these waves and take information from your phone to your wireless earpiece.
Your devices like these are said to be connected through the “internet of things.”
Should you be worried
Before you can learn how to secure Bluetooth devices you need to understand why you’re at risk.
You might not see it, but there is an invisible connection between your devices when you’re transmitting data.
The issue here is that some people familiar with how Bluetooth connections work can hijack this invisible connection without you even knowing.
This can look like someone airdropping unwanted images to your iPhone or compromising your pairing devices like your wireless earpiece.
In fact, security breaches like these aren’t as uncommon as we’d like to think. The most notable of these were the BlueBorne attacks from 2017 that could remotely compromise and exploit Bluetooth connections.
The newer versions of Bluetooth, 4.0 and 5.0, are more targeted because of their use.
Technology is ever-growing, and with that growth comes new advancements that a hacker might catch onto first.
This doesn’t mean you stop reaping the benefits of this technology; but instead, it makes it all the more important to take the right precautions.
Ways to secure your connection
Technology might not be perfect, but you can take measures to stay safe when using it.
Here’s a list of some of the most vital actions you need to know to protect your data:
1. Keeping your software updated.
This might apply to all technology, but up to date equals better. Bluetooth models have gone from the earliest version, 1.0 dating back to the 1990s, to the newest 5.0 series. Different models use different security encryption techniques and pairing methods to protect your device and data.
Many of the vulnerabilities from the previous one are patched up to give your more excellent protection with every version. For instance, there were significant changes in the pairing and encryption algorithms in the 4.0 model.
Keeping up with these models is by far the most crucial step in making sure your connection is safe from prying eyes. Be mindful that when you set up a connection between a device with a newer version and a device with an older version, the security mechanisms in place will be of the older version. This is simply because the older device can’t keep up with the mechanisms of the newer ones.
2. Limit the apps you permit using Bluetooth.
Everyone dreads reading the long, tiny font app permission prompts when installing a new app on their phone.
Whether you do that or not, it’s essential to be on top of which apps have the permission to make your mobile device a Bluetooth peripheral.
I can not emphasize this point enough, make sure only reliable apps can open your phone’s Bluetooth connection.
This has been a problem notably with iOS users who seemed to receive unwanted and random image files through the iOS Airdrop feature. These people don’t recall switching on their Airdrop or using their Bluetooth to pair with a device at all.
Android users are just as likely to run into a similar problem.
If you use an iPhone, we recommend the following: Go to “Apps & notification settings”, and under the app permissions section, you can figure out which apps you want to allow access to Bluetooth.
You can adjust the permission setting for Android users by following this pathway: Apps & notifications > Advanced > App permissions.
3. Maintain your distance
Taking a lesson from the pandemic, something as simple as maintaining a good distance from potential attackers can be a simple solution.
The logic is simple: Bluetooth devices, being low energy, don’t function on long ranges (although the definition of “long-range” varies across devices).
Most Bluetooth attacks happen in public settings like a crowded bus stop or a packed subway.
Firstly, we recommend not using Bluetooth to pair if you are in a public crowd where you can’t tell if someone is a hacker.
However, if you need to use your Bluetooth device, keep an eye out for anyone in a certain radius.
While this radius can vary greatly depending on the device you have, a 10-meter distance is a reliable and safe option.
Do keep in mind that this radius looks like the distance between two ends of a bar.
Regardless, you shouldn’t worry too much because such attacks are actually pretty rare and can be avoided mainly with other safety steps.
4. Keep it turned off.
Despite all of the above precautions, there’s still some risk that you have to account for with Bluetooth devices.
However minimal, we still want to prepare you to avoid that as much as possible.
So what is the most bulletproof way of preventing a Bluetooth attack?
Keep your Bluetooth turned off when it’s not in use. Unless you want to listen to your favorite podcast or your current audiobook on the subway to kill some time, there’s no point in having your Bluetooth on in public.
Hackers will keep coming up with innovative ways to access your data, and developers will keep patching up software vulnerabilities to protect your data.
You can’t just stop using technology to avoid attacks, but you can certainly minimize the possibility by using our safety mechanisms!