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The Danger with Tech Wearables

September 8th, 2021

You’re playing a game of hide and seek but … you are found every time! How did they do it?

This was the case when fitness data service Strava – compatible with most tech wearables – revealed secretive locations and patrol routes with an online “heat map”. The discovered locations allowed for potential adversaries to determine “patterns of life” by tracking and identifying military or intelligence agency personnel as they go about their duties or head home after deployment. Analysts stress that the same could be done to ordinary citizens.

Whether it’s a Fitbit, Google OS watch, an Apple Watch, or any other smart device, hackers may know much more than just your location.

What are the possible dangers?

  • Identity Theft – Hackers could use data to fake official documents, set up false bank accounts, or file fraudulent tax returns.
  • Profiling – Details collected on each user could provide organizations with data used to discriminate against certain groups or minorities.
  • Stalking – Some wearables contain location-based identifiable information. This allows outsiders access to your real-time location, enabling them to learn your daily patterns.
  • Misuse – Big data is big business. With the collected information, entities could buy and sell personal information without consumers’ knowledge. Marketers can use the data collected to tailor ads to users.
  • Extortion – Health monitoring devices are some of the most popular wearables. As users can track their sleep schedules, heart rates, and other health-related data, none of this information is protected by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), providing an opportunity for blackmail.

Steps to protect yourself

  • Check the default settings on an app or device – Ask yourself, is it tracking me even when I’m not using the app? When I’m not using the device? Go to system preferences (settings), under the tab labeled privacy or tracking, and you can choose to turn off or on permission to track.
  • Look for privacy settings in multiple locations – Tracking capacities can be located on multiple locations on a device. Though your fitness app is configured to track only when open, an app such as Instagram can still be constantly tracking your location for geotagging photos.
  • Turn off location tracking when not in use – Make it a habit to turn tracking features off and on. This can be done in system preferences, only allowing tracking when a particular app is in use.
  • Stay vigilant in protecting your personal information – A virtual private network (VPN) service such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or IPVanish allows for online privacy and anonymity by establishing secure, encrypted connections and masking your IP address.

Technology is ever growing, keep yourself informed. Do your part - #BeCyberSmart

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