Bluetooth technology is so commonplace, people hardly question the privacy and security factors powering the technology. Invented in 1994, Bluetooth is a short-range wireless communication technology that allows devices like your phone or computer to send and receive data from alternative devices such as a portable speaker, car, headset, smart watch, and more.
Bluetooth is low cost and low energy, but also has a smaller range, extending about 30 feet, and smaller transmission speed than WiFi. However, if there are walls, floors or ceilings within range interfering with the signal, that’s another story.
Connecting two Bluetooth devices is called “pairing,” and is generally an easy process. Depending on the device you’re trying to connect with, all you have to do is power on Bluetooth by either turning it on through the device’s settings, or holding down the button that displays the Bluetooth icon. Once the name of the device you wish to connect with pops up on the device in use, select the desired device.
Most Bluetooth pairings happen with mobile devices, so below we’ve outlined how to manage your Bluetooth and some easy ways to secure the connection on your phones and tablets.
How secure is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is considered reasonably secure:
- Connections are encrypted, preventing casual eavesdropping from other devices
- Bluetooth devices often shift radio frequencies while paired to prevent unauthorized access
- Devices offer a variety of privacy settings that allow users to limit connections:
- “Trusting” a Bluetooth device restricts connections to only that specific device
- You can restrict activities your device is permitted to engage in while on a Bluetooth connection
Managing Bluetooth in Apple iOS Mobile Devices:
If your iOS device hasn’t been updated to iOS 11 yet, you should really bite the bullet. If you have updated your phone, go you! Depending on your iOS device, swipe up or down to access the Control Center. If already enabled, the Bluetooth icon will appear blue. To temporarily disable Bluetooth, simply tap the Bluetooth icon, turning it gray. You can also manage your Bluetooth Settings by tapping on the Settings application, and then tapping on Bluetooth, where you will find a toggle that allows you to switch Bluetooth on or off. If green, Bluetooth is on and will also show you a list of available devices ready for pairing. When disabled, it will show no color or list of devices.
Here’s something you may not know about disabling Bluetooth: if you tap the Bluetooth icon off in your Control Settings, you’re only disconnecting your phone from whatever Bluetooth device(s) it is connected to, and it only temporarily disables Bluetooth (for 24 hours). The Bluetooth radios within your phone are still on even if the Bluetooth icon is gray in your Control Center. To actually disable your phone’s Bluetooth connectivity, you need to do it through your Settings app.
Managing Bluetooth In Google’s Android Mobile Devices:
You can turn Bluetooth on or off from “Quick Settings.” Drag downwards on the top of your Android screen. The window that appears should have some visible Settings icons. Those filled in black are active, while others filled in a light grayish color are inactive. Tap the Bluetooth symbol, and it should turn that same light gray indicating it’s disabled.
If you can’t see the Bluetooth icon on the pull down, you need to expand Quick Settings. You can do this by dragging downwards one more time from the top, or pressing the Expand icon on the bottom right-hand corner of your Quick Settings. From here, you’ll see the Bluetooth icon ready to be disabled (or enabled, if that’s your thing).
You can turn Bluetooth on or off through your regular Settings as well, but the specifics are a little different. If you open your Android device’s Settings app and see “Bluetooth,” tap it. From here, you can toggle the switch on or off. If you open your Settings app and don’t see “Bluetooth” on the menu, tap on “Connected devices” instead. At the top of the next screen, you’ll see a Bluetooth toggle, which you can turn on or off.
Proceed with Caution
Although Bluetooth doesn’t present a great risk, you should still proceed with privacy and safety in mind:
- While in public and not using Bluetooth, you should disable it completely
- Forget devices that you’re no longer using (e.g., if you connected to a rental car)
- Do not connect to any unknown devices
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