Yesterday, Politico opened its publication with an article on Vice President Kamala Harris’ aversion to using Bluetooth headphones. The VP was “Bluetooth-phobic,” the story claimed, “wary” of her AirPods and cautious together with her expertise use to an extent former aides described as “a bit paranoid.” Proof might be seen in her televised appearances: wires dangling from her ears in an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid or clutched in her hand during the famous “We did it, Joe” call.
However for a high-profile public official, this can be a lot extra cheap than you would possibly assume. As safety researchers were quick to point out, Bluetooth has various well-documented vulnerabilities that might be exploited if a foul actor needed to hack, say, the second strongest particular person within the US authorities.
A few of these assaults come right down to the essential mechanics of how the Bluetooth protocol works. With Bluetooth switched on, a cellphone, laptop computer or different good gadget is consistently broadcasting a sign that may be detected by different gadgets in vary — which gives an pointless vector for assault that may simply be eradicated by merely protecting Bluetooth off. Assuming Bluetooth is enabled, a smartphone person usually will get a immediate from any unknown gadget attempting to attach. However in sure circumstances this may be skirted, as with one exploit that impersonates a trusted Bluetooth device already recognized to the person so as to hook up with the cellphone, at which level the attacker can request or ship knowledge through Bluetooth.
(The complexity of this assault makes it unlikely to have an effect on common folks, however for a determine just like the VP — who’s undeniably a high-value goal for international surveillance makes an attempt — there’s a non-zero probability of falling sufferer. It additionally impacts each Android and Apple gadgets, the latter of which Harris seems to make use of.)
Different much less extreme Bluetooth assaults would let an attacker crash gadgets by way of denial of service, primarily overwhelming a cellphone with connection requests till the processor is unable to reply. Once more, such assaults have beforehand affected each Android and Apple devices, though iPhones are thought-about to have a safer implementation of Bluetooth.
In whole, the CVE Program, which tracks cybersecurity vulnerabilities, lists 459 current and historic vulnerabilities that mention Bluetooth, suggesting that Kamala Harris is correct to be cautious. There’s a easy strategy to mitigate all of those assaults — disabling Bluetooth, sticking to wired headphones — however doing so means swimming in opposition to the technological present, and perhaps wanting like you may’t afford AirPods.
Nonetheless, Harris’ justified distaste for Bluetooth is a win for anybody who’s been met with skepticism for suggesting that hey, maybe they need to hold round a ball of tangled headphone wires as an alternative of connecting wirelessly through a decades-old protocol. If anybody must be shunning the most recent expertise in favor of the safe choice, it’s the vice chairman.