Bluetooth is a short-range wireless data network originally proposed as an alternative to the messy tangle of computer accessory wires. In addition to reducing desktop clutter, Bluetooth allows hands-free operation for cell phones in vehicles. You can also use Bluetooth to connect a few computers, cell phones and other devices to sync and swap files. Although most mobile devices and many PCs today support Bluetooth, the technology comes with a few disadvantages, including slow data speeds, poor data security and shortened battery life.
Although Bluetooth is an energy-efficient technology, it does slowly drain the battery of your cell phone or other mobile device. When enabled, Bluetooth continually scans for signals, looking for new devices to connect with, but using energy in the process. Check your device's settings and turn Bluetooth off when you're not using it.
Virtually every network technology has some security built into it to prevent hackers from accessing your data without your permission. However, Bluetooth security is weak compared to Wi-Fi and other wireless data standards. A determined attacker can, for example, gain access to your wireless device through a Bluetooth connection, although he or she would have to be nearby for the attempt to work.
All wireless technologies have limits on how fast they can transmit data; generally, faster connections mean higher energy consumption. Because Bluetooth is intended to be very energy-efficient, it sends data relatively slowly. The Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy standard, at 26 megabits per second, is much faster than Bluetooth used to offer and suitable for occasional syncing and small backup operations. However, Bluetooth is not a substitute for faster technologies such as Wi-Fi and USB.
Disabling Bluetooth when you aren't using it improves security, as the connection can't be hacked if it's off. Another option to consider disabling is Bluetooth's discoverability feature; it sends identification signals to all devices within range, essentially inviting a connection. Remove Bluetooth connection settings on devices paired with accessories that may have been stolen to prevent thieves from gaining access to your PC or smartphone. Use firewall and anti-virus programs for PCs and other devices to keep hackers at bay.