Because Bluetooth’s use is so ubiquitous, almost every device you come across is compatible with it, including speakers, computer peripherals, and similar products. Once you pair your Android smartphone with one of these gadgets, it will automatically reconnect to it the next time you’re nearby — assuming you’ve left Bluetooth turned on, of course. This is particularly convenient when it comes to quickly using a pair of wireless headphones or connecting to your car’s infotainment system.
However, the December 2021 revelation about Vice President Harris’ caution regarding the technology renewed interest in why it may be risky. One anonymous security researcher who goes by “SwiftOnSecurity” on Twitter said in a tweet that Bluetooth “exposes … your device for attack,” backing up the VP’s decision to avoid using wireless earbuds. So what is it about Bluetooth that makes it so vulnerable?
A major factor lies in its nature. Bluetooth technology operates on having devices discover each other when within close range of each other. The Bluetooth-enabled device sends a signal that can be detected by other devices that are in its range. This discoverability leaves them vulnerable to a malicious attack if a hacker is in the area, whether by managing to connect to the device without the user’s permission or by sending a barrage of connection requests that leaves the phone temporarily unusable (via GovInfo).
Privacy is another issue that users should think about when using Bluetooth. According to The New York Times, large retailers such as Walmart and Target may use Bluetooth technology to track shoppers while they are in stores to enhance the customer experience. This data can be sold to third-party marketing companies that may use your information without your knowledge.