Can Your Fitness Tracker be Hacked?

In a world of everyday tech advancements, owning a fitness tracker is common for those who already live an active life, as well as those just entering that world. The small wearable devices are an excellent way of monitoring our daily fitness activity, eating habits and sleep cycles. They also motivate us to do more. They’re so good that we incorporated the gear as part of our everyday attire. Present on almost every wrist, the fitness tracker seems as if it’s here to stay.

But just as with any other connected device, there’s a big downside to fitness trackers a lot of consumers don’t realize—the safety and privacy concerns. There are risks of getting hacked and having your personal information leaked into the world. Yes, your wearable device can be hacked and get you in a lot of trouble.

Data on Fitness Trackers

Let’s start by exploring some statistics: In the fourth quarter of 2015, 78.1 million units of wearables, including Fitbit, Apple, Xiaomi, Garmin, Samsung and others, were sold worldwide.

That means over 78 million people are monitoring their daily activity, including the number of steps, type and quality of activity, calories burned, distance, location, meals, sleeping cycle, heart rate and more. Not only do fitness trackers have this information but also personal information, such as name, address, phone number and health condition.

All of this information is stored on a server and all voluntarily given to the manufacturers. A lot of questions remain unanswered. Where exactly is this data stored? Who has access to it? How is it used? Is it secure? How long is it stored? Can it be deleted by request?

How Can You Get Hacked?

Wearables sync with smartphones through a short-range wireless spectrum of Bluetooth. This makes the connection vulnerable. There are two main ways hackers can get to your fitness tracker and steal data. It’s usually done by a sniffing attack or internal attack.

One way of getting hacked is sniffing attacks. The attacker can place a special wireless “sniffer” device next to a key-based security system and wait to steal sensor data from your wearable device. This way, it will get the needed info by eavesdropping on your device’s own transmission.

Internal attacks happen mainly through the smartphone used to link to your fitness tracker with malware-infected apps. The apps infest your fitness tracker via your phone and are able to steal your data.

A recent study on ATM passcode cracking conducted by Binghamton University and the Stevens Institute of Technology showed that wearables track even the slightest movements we make when we enter our PIN at the ATM. The data, based on the millimeter differences between every touch and the movement direction, is picked up by the motion sensors and stored in the device.

After collecting the data, researchers used a computer algorithm to create a reverse movement pattern and predict four-digit PIN codes. They were able to guess passcodes with more than 90 percent accuracy. This means that your recorded movement can be read with alarming precision and exploited by attackers very easy.

Improved Safety for Hacking Prevention


As with any other online device, there are ways to protect yourself from getting hacked. Here are several precautions you can take to keep your fitness tracker data safe.

For one, change all default passwords. Try to use complex and unique passwords. Where possible, use two-layer security. Check the tracker’s security settings. Change what you need. Read the manufacturer’s online guides and manuals and see what other settings you can change to improve the device’s security.

Never use your tracker while you are logged on via a public network. Do not log into your account on a public network either. Keep your software up-to-date because updates include improved performance and patches for any security holes. Try to resist the urge to share your fitness data on social media. It can only increase your vulnerability.

The rise of wearable tech has advantages and disadvantages. While creating social, health and fitness profiles can make it easier for us to monitor our daily habits and progress and can improve our quality of life, we often forget about the dangers. This data we put online also acts as bait for hackers and presents a serious threat to our privacy and security that we have to consider.

With a little bit of precaution, you can enjoy your fitness tracker and reap all of its benefits and lead a healthy life.

Do you wear a fitness tracker? Are you worried it might be hacked? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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