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You Should Stop Using Bluetooth, here is why


Everyone uses Bluetooth. Perhaps they shouldn't.

The technology that we've come to rely on to connect our phones, smart speakers, cars, vibrators, and toasters is problematic for reasons more serious than pairing issues. Bluetooth has been shown time and time again to be a security and privacy nightmare — albeit one that can be mostly solved with a simple toggling of an off switch.

You just have to decide to flip that switch.

Bluetooth has long been a dirty word for security professionals. So much so, in fact, that one of the most common pieces of advice given to attendees of the annual DEF CON hacker conference in Las Vegas is to make sure Bluetooth is disabled on their phones.

This is not just paranoia. In fact, at this year's DEF CON researchers showed off the ability to use Bluetooth to identify vulnerable digital speakers. Once identified, hackers could take control of the devices and force them to play "dangerous" sounds that could lead to hearing the loss in anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby.

Other Bluetooth-related concerns, while more prosaic, are still problematic. Earlier this week researchers announced a flaw that could allow hackers to both intercepts and alter data sent over Bluetooth.

"[An] attacker is able to listen in on, or change the content of, nearby Bluetooth communication, even between devices that have previously been successfully paired," explain the researchers.

That's not all. Just a few weeks ago researchers demonstrated how AirDrop can be used by malicious actors to determine your full phone number (which reveals a lot about you) due to the way Bluetooth Low Energy works.

It gets worse. As the New York Times and others have reported, many stores now use Bluetooth beacons to track the location of individual shoppers down to the inch. That information is often sold or given to advertisers, who then use it to build data profiles on unwitting people just trying to buy a carton of milk.

Essentially, keeping Bluetooth enabled on your phone at all times opens you up to potential hacks, abuse, and privacy violations. The solution is simple: Don't use it. Or, if you must, make sure to turn it off as soon as you've unpaired from the device in question.

That precaution may seem like a pain in the ass now, but any frustration that comes from repeatedly pairing and unpairing your gadgets pales in comparison to getting hacked or having your privacy systematically violated.

So turn off Bluetooth, grab some wired headphones, and enjoy the sweet sound of knowing you took a basic digital security precaution.

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