With the rapid growth and development of technology including devices such as smartwatches and fitness bands reaching your fitness goals has become a lot easier and smarter. But are these devices really secure? Unfortunately, the answer may not be what you want to hear, with security experts raising significant concerns that these devices have the capabilities to track a lot more than just your fitness activities.
Most fitness devices connect to your phone via wi-fi or Bluetooth, thus making them part of an interconnected system known as the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things, or IoT, has literally revolutionised the way that we interact with the world, enabling technology companies to create personalised user experiences based upon user data.
Unfortunately, the more data that we share with these devices, the greater the risk that it will end up in the wrong hands. Without strict Internet of Things security, any connected object — from refrigerators to smart cars — runs the risk of being hacked and having personal user information exposed.
The good news is, there are a few strategies that you can employ to protect your private data. So don’t throw out that smartwatch just yet!
The first step in securing data from wearable devices is to understand exactly what data is being collected. Apple smartwatches, Fitbits, and other fitness trackers usually collect a range of data necessary to keep track of your movement habits. This can include the number of steps you have taken, your heart rate, your sleep duration, blood pressure levels, and more.
What's more, wearable fitness devices often keep a record of your running routes and have the ability to track your current location, which is very valuable information to online criminals.
Often, smartwatches and fitness bands require you to connect a third-party app to get the overall report of your performance. The Internet of Things facilitates this connection, but it is also the spot at which data hacking most likely occurs.
Before activating your device or connecting it to any third parties, be sure that you fully understand what data it is collecting and where your private information is being stored.
Tips for securing your device
By following these tips, you are doing everything in your power to protect your private information.
● Read the user agreement thoroughly:
Take the time to read and understand privacy policies before purchasing any type of wearable fitness device.
Also, third-party apps will have a user agreement that outlines what kind of information is being collected and how it is being stored, so make sure you thoroughly read their user agreement before signing up. Research any kind of data breaches that may have occurred in the past and check what the company has since done to protect their user data.
● Choose to limit the information being collected
Often, apps and devices collect a lot more personal data than what's actually necessary. If possible, try limiting the device’s access to unnecessary information. For example, if you are only interested in your step count and heart rate, turn off the automatic sleep tracker.
Some fitness apps and devices will ask permission to access your photos, videos, and contacts. This is usually unnecessary — if a device is monitoring your step count, does it really need access to your personal photos? Always ask yourself these types of questions before mindlessly handing your personal information over to a third party.
● Set up a two-factor authentication
Setting up a two-factor authentication (2FA) is one of the best ways to secure your wearable and any associated accounts. 2FA requires the use of your normal login credentials (username and password) as well as a randomly generated code that is sent to your phone or email account. Should a hacker somehow uncover your password, they will still be prevented from accessing your fitness account, which can contain a trove of personal and health-related data.
Fitness trackers are a wonderful invention that can help people of all ages stay on top of their physical activity goals. However, just as you are taking the time to look after your health and wellbeing, you should also enact appropriate steps to practise Internet of Things security and protect your online privacy.