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Security & privacy

The simple but dangerous mistake you make with your phone every day

Your smartphone has many settings to protect your privacy, and you may not always be aware of them. Tap or click here for new iPhone and Android security features to turn on.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. There are some features you should leave off, especially if you’re not using them. Some are minor annoyances, while others can expose you to cybercriminals.

Here’s one common setting that has many uses, but it also has a big drawback.

Bluetooth is everywhere

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless radio technology that allows different devices to communicate with each other. You’ll find the tech in modern cars, speakers, TVs, headphones, keyboards, mice, printers and more.

Bluetooth works similarly to Wi-Fi and cellular networks but performs simpler tasks at shorter ranges. You don’t need a cellular signal or network connection to use Bluetooth, and it doesn’t use data.

Bluetooth is a ubiquitous and convenient technology included with just about every smartphone you can buy nowadays. But as with a Wi-Fi network or other connection, it has vulnerabilities.

Hacks and scams

There are a few ways threat actors can take advantage of Bluetooth-enabled devices:

  • They can send spam messages and malicious links to trick you into providing personal information or downloading malware.
  • Hackers can connect to your phone and install malware or backdoor access. They can then listen in on your conversations, read your messages and access your contacts. They are, in essence, bugging your phone.
  • Cybercriminals can retrieve information from your phone, such as call logs, photos and passwords and use it to commit identity theft or hold it for ransom.

Hackers and scammers need to be close to you to use Bluetooth to hijack your phone, and this can occur in just about any public space.

What you can do about it

While Bluetooth is useful for many applications, be careful how you use it. Here are some tips to stay protected:

  • Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it. Keeping it active all the time makes your device more discoverable. As a bonus, keeping Bluetooth off will increase your device’s battery life.
  • Unpair Bluetooth devices you’re no longer using or any that you lose or sell.
  • Don’t send sensitive information via Bluetooth, as it can easily be intercepted by others. In fact, you should avoid sending anything through Bluetooth in public places, even to your friend sitting right next to you.
  • Don’t accept any files or unknown messages via Bluetooth.
  • Don’t accept Bluetooth pairing requests from devices you don’t recognize.
  • Keep your devices updated to protect yourself from the latest threats.

RELATED: Smartphone warning: Check these settings NOW on your iPhone or Android

How to turn off Bluetooth on your iPhone or Android phone

There are a couple of ways to disable Bluetooth on your iPhone. Go to Settings > Bluetooth and switch it off. You can also swipe down from the top right of your screen to open the Control Center and tap on the Bluetooth icon.

The same steps work for Android phones: Go to Settings > Connected Devices > Connection Preferences > Bluetooth and switch it off. You can also swipe down from the top of the screen to display the Status Bar and then swipe down and tap Bluetooth to switch it off.

In any case, airplane mode disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, among other things.

Keep reading

Eight clever ways to use Bluetooth trackers like the AirTag and Tile

Update your computer’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth drivers ASAP – Here’s why

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