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Should we be wary of bluetooth?

Bluetooth is an excellent way of connecting our tech. Headphones, fitbits, laptops and phones all often depend on bluetooth in order to connect to each other wirelessly. But is there something within that technology to be wary of? We’ve been finding out about how bluetooth could be advertising your tech to thieves.

Few of us would ever leave a laptop or phone in full view in our cars, but there’s evidence to suggest that we could be doing just that when we don’t turn off bluetooth. Wired reported multiple accounts from individuals who felt that their cars were targeted because of their tech, despite it being physically hidden. Obviously, there are a number of possible explanations for this, but a fair few people seem to believe that bluetooth had something to do with the theft. 

How can thieves use bluetooth to locate devices?

In theory, thieves can locate devices using bluetooth the exact same way the rest of us do - when we lose a bluetooth device, you can download a bluetooth scanning app. We found a ton of different articles and videos online showing us how to do it, so we decided to put it to the test in our office. 

There were a number of different applications available on iOS (and we presume a similar number, if not more on Android), but we went for the one with the most reviews, Wunderfind. We immediately found two devices and the app also gave us information on how far we were away from them (20ft and 52ft respectively). The app also encouraged us to ‘move around to discover more nearby devices’. 

On selecting one of the devices, we were given the option to pair with it; or we could just wander around so that the signal strength increased, which is exactly what we did. The app gave us a precise signal strength percentage as we walked round the office, until we eventually located Kai’s headphones. 

It should be noted that there’s no evidence to suggest that thieves were using bluetooth scanners to locate devices left inside vehicles - it’s almost impossible to tell whether someone had a clever little app to do the hard work for them, or just noticed the victim stowing a device under the seat or in the boot and saw an opportunity.

How can I protect myself?

Primarily, we’d recommend that nobody leave their valuable tech in a car, but we appreciate that’s not always possible. When you are leaving your laptops or devices in a vehicle, we’d encourage you to turn off bluetooth from those devices, and also shut the device down rather than send it to sleep. That way, you can be sure that your device isn’t sending any signals to opportunistic criminals nearby.

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