Mobile Handshake

Bluetooth takes a bite out of networking standards, using low power and multiple connections to spread its increasingly secure message

Elena Malykhina, Technology Journalist

March 17, 2006

1 Min Read

Bluetooth also can be useful when people are traveling for business. It's possible to access the Internet on a laptop even when there's no Wi-Fi hot-spot available by pairing a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and laptop to create a wireless broadband connection. "It's a good way to access a cellular network without buying a dedicated modem for your computer," says Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis.

Security Setbacks

Bluetooth CallingBut Bluetooth technology comes with a long history of security issues. Devices are subject to attacks like "Bluejacking," where unsolicited messages are sent to phones. Additionally, Bluetooth sniffers can be used to record Bluetooth transmissions and recover the user's PIN.

Still, the security issues are often overhyped. Bluetooth is subject to the same security flaws as unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. It all comes down to the users, who have to be aware that they can't leave Bluetooth on or in "discovered mode," when a device is most vulnerable to attacks, says Michael Disabato, a Burton Group analyst.

Organizations such as the Bluetooth Special Interest Group are working to improve security. The group holds UnPlugFests, where manufacturers test their Bluetooth devices for interoperability before they're released on the market. Over the past couple of years, security experts and hackers were brought in to find security flaws in Bluetooth products. Their tests have shown that Bluetooth, which uses 128-bit keys for encryption, is a secure technology. It's the user implementation that needs to improve.

About the Author(s)

Elena Malykhina

Technology Journalist

Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she followed the world of advertising. Having earned the nickname of "gadget girl," she is excited to be writing about technology again for InformationWeek, where she worked in the past as an associate editor covering the mobile and wireless space. She now writes about the federal government and NASA’s space missions on occasion.

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