Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Bluetooth vs Infrared

John Early has an interesting editorial over at Computer Weekly “Infrared meets speed and security needs:”

Famously associated with applications such as personal digital assistant to laptop synchronisation, PDA business card exchange and short-haul mobile phone data transfer; IRDA, with its short range and relatively low 4mbps throughput, was understandably discounted by the IT community as irrelevant for WLan application.

Infrared has squared up to recent competition from Bluetooth, an alternative radio frequency communications standard designed to support similar connectivity to IRDA. Simple set-up and good reliability initially secured IRDA’s popularity over Bluetooth. More recently, questions about Bluetooth’s inherent insecurity have reinforced IRDA’s popularity.

He doesn’t mention that it’s easy to make IR connections directional (actually, its hard to make them omnidirectional), which is very useful for some applications.

The right architecture makes security much easier. The use of RFID in passports will always be a problem in search of a solution, adding to the cost and risks for a use case that’s unclear. Using IR to link local devices is a win because it aligns the security properties that people expect (that walls block things) with the reality.

(Via InfoSec News.)