Wearables — risks on your wrist?

Anton P. | November 06, 2020

The popularity of wearables, such as smartwatches and health trackers, increases at a staggering rate. Today, glancing at our wrists to check the time is old news. Instead, we check our blood sugar levels, step count, or heart rate. With a lightweight gadget on our sleeve, we can pick up calls, check emails, and pay for our groceries. Yet, there are some downsides. These tiny gadgets hold access to our most private information. Let’s take a look at the most critical security risks of wearable technology.

What are the security concerns of wearables?

Smartwatches, Bluetooth headsets, and fitness trackers are wearables that we, possibly, can no longer live without. According to statistics, there will be nearly 1 billion connected wearable devices within the upcoming years. Manufacturers now race to supply the growing demand and create the latest must-have wearable gadgets. However, shortcomings typically accompany the rush to innovate. Some of them might be in poor shape when it comes to securing consumers’ data and keeping it private.

Wearables collect a lot of personal data

Wearables collect and store private information, which entails the inherent risk of malicious data exploits. Your gadget may require access to your files, location, contacts, camera, and personal information (age, height, weight, and gender). Also, it stores potentially sensitive data, such as financial details, if you use the gadget to make payments. Dedicated wearable apps save all of this information in the cloud remotely. Thus, in case of a data breach, all of your personal details get exposed.

Wearables can share your data with third-parties

Wearable technology creates opportunities for retail marketers to target customers with personalized advertisements. By storing information about your activities, lifestyle, and behavior, wearables create quite a precise consumer profile. Depending on your device’s privacy policy, it can sell, share, or strategically exchange your data with third-party companies. It is essential to learn how your wearable app shares your private information, so you can opt-out if possible.

Wearables are easy targets for hackers

Wearables belong to the Internet of Things (IoT), which means they suffer from the same drawbacks. They do not have any specific safeguards to defend themselves from getting infected by malicious software. It is easy for hackers to penetrate your wearable using customized malware and use it as a backdoor into your smartphone or network. IoT devices are also the targets of DDoS or botnet attacks.

Security, or a lack of it, is often developed with little consideration for wearable devices. Recently, researchers discovered that a smartwatch designed exclusively for children contains an undocumented backdoor. The backdoor secretly allows someone to take pictures, record audio, and track kids’ real-time location. Another investigation of a smartwatch, popular among elderly people, appeared to have disturbingly-weak security, too. Reportedly, attackers could easily trick the device into pushing fake “take pills” reminders to patients.

How to protect your wearables?

There are several simple steps that users can take:

  • Allow permissions required for the device to function. Fitness trackers don’t need access to your camera or files to count your steps.
  • Read privacy policies for your wearables and apps you download to learn how they manage your data.
  • Check the settings for the highest level of security. For example, you can restrict your wearable from pairing with devices you haven’t approved.
  • Download software updates when they are available, as they patch reported vulnerabilities.
  • Since most wearables operate through mobile applications, it’s vital to secure your smartphone. Install a mobile VPN to encrypt your traffic and protect your private data from hackers.

Final word

Wearables offer a wealth of helpful features, and widespread use is likely to drive demand. But despite being so convenient, these gadgets put our digital security and privacy at risk. A cheap wearable can act as a bridge for hackers to penetrate your smartphone or home network. Always exercise caution and remain vigilant to protect your personal information when using wearables.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.



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