Kamala Harris is on to something: AirPods are bad

People, AirPods are awful. It’s something I’ve been saying for years. When Apple originally introduced the pricey accessories in 2016, I compared AirPods to tampons without strings, claiming that they lacked the critical component that allows you to find them when you need them.

Over the years, I’ve held to my wired headphone sets with tenacity. (I say headphone sets, plural since I require two pairs, one for my laptop’s headphone jack and the other for my iPhone’s non-headphone jack. I frequently feel that people I can’t hear on Zoom discussions are on mute when, in fact, I’m wearing the wrong sort of earbuds. I’d give a damn; I’m not changing.)

Wired headphones are simply preferable to wireless headphones, according to the world’s best people in technology and security.

Politico’s unusually harsh post about Kamala Harris’ preference for wired headphones over wireless ones prompted this moment of love for the humble wired earphone.

“Kamala Harris is Bluetooth-phobic,” the headline read, adding that Harris uses wired headphones with her phone because she “feels” and “believes” that Bluetooth headphones constitute a security risk.

According to an unidentified source, her aversion is “a little neurotic,” and she wonders if “someone who travels with the nuclear football” should risk “spending time untangling her headphone cords.”

However, it fails to mention a cybersecurity expert, who might have informed the writers that Bluetooth’s security weakness is a “fact” rather than a “feeling,” and that “someone who travels with the nuclear football” has a somewhat more sophisticated danger model than the usual iPhone user.

Bluetooth technology has been available since the 1990s. While its security has improved over time, it is still vulnerable to “man in the middle” assaults, according to cybersecurity analyst and journalist Kim Crawley. That implies an attacker might intercept and decode the Bluetooth signal between the phone and the Bluetooth device. It allows them to listen in on whatever audio is being delivered.

“If Kamala Harris is using wired earphones, the conversations between her phone and her ears cannot be intercepted,” Crawley explained. “I would assume Ms. Harris has access to a lot of top-secret and classified material. The top secret and classified information may be passing via her phone, so yeah, I don’t think that’s unreasonably suspicious.”

Bluetooth signals are encrypted, but encryption, like a lock on a door, is a “barrier,” not a guarantee, according to Crawley. After all, locks may be broken.

Although Harris’s calls might still be monitored at a different location (such as the mobile phone network). She has eliminated one possible “attack surface” in cybersecurity parlance by eschewing wireless headphones.

Given that a Bluetooth signal can travel up to 100 meters. It is an attacker that could appear to be a random person playing with her phone. Wearing wired headphones is a sensible precaution for anyone with access to highly sensitive information. Reason to believe they may be the target of an attack.

According to Crawley, this does not suggest that ordinary people should abandon their AirPods. While some “high-security computing environments” restrict the use of Bluetooth devices such as keyboards and mouse. Cybersecurity decisions should be tailored to your specific demands and vulnerabilities.

“It’s not a huge deal if there’s a man-in-the-middle assault. The only thing the cyber-attacker learns is that we like listening to the Spice Girls,” Crawley added.

My dislike to AirPods is not the consequence of a high-level threat scenario. (Though the ever-present anxiety of losing two exorbitantly expensive items does represent a threat to my sense of security). I have a healthy skepticism of new items pushed. As revolutionary by roaring capitalists (a trait that served me well during my six years as a tech reporter). As well as a Boomer-like reluctance to much new.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which reported last month on a wave of “fashionable young celebs” found “strutting around town with obviously corded headphones,” I’ve managed to maintain this posture for long enough that wired headphones have attained a certain amount of vintage appeal.

This has given me the satisfaction of being proven correct. It is maybe the greatest joy a 38-year-old single woman without children can hope for in her life.

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