Are Wireless Earbuds a Privacy Threat?


#1

Question: Are wireless earbuds a valid privacy threat? What can they do?


#2

if the nature of the low level code is closed then i would assume it would mean that it could be exploited to carry malicious intent also like any other closed code out there.

the problem with such a small object beeing this close to my brain would also pottentially pose serious injury concerns on a long term basis. i mean for ocasional very limited use it’s probably going to fly by but anything more than that it’s probably worth investigating further.


#3

No, it wouldn’t. The frequency of electromagnetic radiation emitted from any kind of electronic device that isn’t an X-ray machine (or something similar / stronger) is insufficiently energetic to ionize anything, which is the damage people are typically concerned about when they’re concerned about radiation.


#4

i’m not saying you couldn’t be right but at the moment i have my doubts. long term exposure of any kind of low electromagnetic radiation is difficult to quantify over a long period of time and for the time beeing the FACT remains that there is insufficient evidence to suggest otherwise.

for me at the present moment wired devices are sufficient although i do sometimes use wireless ones too.


#5

I don’t need to know the health risks, I have already done plenty of research on that.

@reC @rjm

My main issue is that, if I understood correctly, audio jacks can only transport audio because of hardware limitations. You can’t easily install malicious code unlike USB devices.
With bluetooth headsets is there something similar?
Obviously, they must be some security issue with Microphones, is there some software off/on switch to help mitigate that (obviously nothing is perfect).


#6

so from my point of view wired iems are really simple and only contain the audio drivers themselves (some have only one mix between highs-lows others have dedicated multiple drivers aka-the audiophile grade ones) they don’t actually have any chip or programable hardware on the iems themselves.

the problem is with the bluetooth/wireless ones because they need to have some sort of programable hardware inside to comunicate with the device sending the data stream over.

the point is that even if it wasn’t a health risk the bt/wireless iems are simply not capable enough to sustain high bitrate streams (FLACS and other Hi-FI formats) as such they are severly limited in scope and delivery.

mp3s and lower bitrate formats are not really an impediment for bt/wireless iems. what i wanted to touch on is that the radiation exposure in the ear canal near the brain is that much greater the higher the load on the stream is. remember the recomendation of mobile phone manufacturers is to keep a safe 1 inch at minimum from the body when in use.

i will not press the issue any further because this is allready offtopic but i do remeber the tingly sensation in my hands when i do heavy data streams from my smartphone. i don’t think it can be overlooked as easily as that. i simply think that we just aren’t educated enough.


#7

I think we can agree there.


#8

I hate wireless earphones, but my issues are more pragmatic in nature. Compared to a wired set of earphones, they are:

  • More expensive for the same audio quality (because of the additional components required).
  • Reliant on a battery which will die after enough use (this is a simple fact of lithium ion cell chemistry).
  • They don’t work if their battery is empty, so it’s yet another thing I’d have to worry about charging.
  • Because they’re smaller and not joined together by a cable, it’s going to be easier to lose them.
  • They require a device to have Bluetooth with audio support (fine for phones, but no good if I want to use it for my computer, my MP3 player or my DS)
  • They’re susceptible to radio wave interference (either congestion from a zillion other people using BT and 802.11 in the same area, or just a badly shielded microwave oven).
  • There is additional latency in the audio chain due to the transcoding and transmission. Not important for music, but might get annoying if you’re watching a video and the audio is not synchronised, and if you’re playing a fast-paced game (which isn’t going to happen on a phone), it’ll get you killed because you didn’t hear the monster creeping up on you in time.
  • A potential security vulnerability, because they obviously require your device to have a Bluetooth stack active. Something called “Blueborne” is an already-existing (and patched… for most things) exploit for this.

#9

Let mi just add to that, that broadcasting your audio in the air is never going to be as private as confining it to the wires. Granted, the wires leak some signal, but it is orders of magnitude weaker than bluetooth transmission and therefore vastly more difficult to snoop on.