Is US Vice President Kamala Harris right to avoid Bluetooth headphones?

The VP has been accused of being Bluetooth-phobic and paranoid for avoiding them.
The VP has been accused of being Bluetooth-phobic and paranoid for avoiding them. Photo credit: Getty Images

Kamala Harris's continued use of wired headphones came under scrutiny in a piece on website Politico this week, but the US Vice President has since received the backing of security professionals.

According to three former campaign aides, the Vice President feels Bluetooth headphones are a security risk and insists on not using them.

Politico said this left some former aides suggesting she was "a bit paranoid".

"Should someone who travels with the nuclear football be spending time untangling her headphone wires? The American people deserve answers," the website stated.

Despite some social media users making fun of the Vice President, others have been more impressed with her stance, including professionals in the field.

"Kamala is smart. And she's right about the risks," tweeted John Scott-Railton, a researcher at Citizen Lab, a digital rights and cybersecurity organisation.

"Refreshing when a politician is wise to the threats around them. Leaders of the US are among the most intelligence-targeted people on the planet.

"By keeping Bluetooth off Kamala is reducing a host of risks, including close-access attacks against her handset, Bluetooth tracking, and all sorts of signals collection."

Maddie Stone, a security researcher at Google Project Zero also said she was correct to avoid wireless headphones.

"Bluetooth is a security risk. If she was hacked, it could affect us all, so being willing to use wired headphones and keep Bluetooth off is responsibility, not a 'phobia'," she tweeted.

When Bluetooth is active, a device constantly broadcasts a signal that can be detected by other devices - presuming they are relatively close.

On consumer devices the range is generally around 10m or so, but the latest Bluetooth version is capable of a range of up to 400m.

There are many documented exploits and vulnerabilities with Bluetooth, some of which can allow attackers to request or send data, meaning there's a theoretical chance that sensitive documents could be stolen.

However, that doesn't mean everyone needs to stop using Bluetooth headphones - those without the same high profile as Kamala Harris who use them to listen to music may consider the small risk of hacking worthwhile.