Can a Bluetooth device be hacked?

Well yes, and… not really.

Here’s the good news: If your Bluetooth device isn’t in “discoverable mode” and if the hacker is more than a few feet away, it’s difficult to hack Bluetooth. Here’s the bad news: it’s not impossible. Bluetooth is designed to be secure, but not so secure that it’s impossible for two devices to connect. It’s got to be an easy process and that makes it vulnerable. Most Bluetooth devices don’t get access to file sharing but that doesn’t mean they’re secure. Let’s take a look at different types of devices and how worried you should be.

Bluetooth speakers

These are probably the most secure of all Bluetooth devices. The Bluetooth audio profile can be set up so that most communication goes one way — to the speaker — and very little information goes back to the host computer. These devices can be used without any real fear that there will be problems.

Bluetooth mice and keyboards

Here you should feel a little less secure. It’s not at all impossible for someone to hijack the signal coming from a mouse and keyboard to control your PC. After all, mice and keyboards are designed to control your PC. Without seeing what’s on your monitor it would be pretty hard to do major damage, but it could be possible for a hacker to get your bank password from listening to the signals coming from your keyboard.

Bluetooth earpieces

The bottom line with any wireless device, whether it’s a phone or just a headset, is that you should assume that they are 100% hackable. It’s not hard for someone to get the signal from your Bluetooth headset while they’re in another car, and that potentially means they could be listening in on your conversations. It would take a decent knowledge of RF and hacking techniques, not to mention the fact it’s illegal, but that’s no guarantee it won’t happen. You should be very careful giving personal information out from any cell phone and especially if you are using a Bluetooth headset.

Cell phones, tablets, and PCs

These devices are going to represent real security risks. This is especially true if you keep them in “discoverable mode” all the time. That’s because many of these devices support “Bluetooth file transfer.” This rarely used technology can actually put something nasty on your device. The good news is that most devices automatically take themselves out of “discoverable mode” when they’re not actively pairing. The bad news is that if there is something paired, it’s only a matter of time. A hacker can use that already-paired device to make his way in, if he really wants to.

So what can you do?

Obviously the most secure thing to do is not use Bluetooth at all. Of course then you really can’t use your phone while driving. Not only that a lot of keyboards and mice are also out of the question for you. Pretty much all you can do is turn off Bluetooth if you’re not actively using it. That, and be aware of your surroundings. Assume that you’re always at risk of being hacked and that your personal information is not safe. Do that and you’ll probably be all right.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.