5 ways to boost security when using your fitness tracker

Wearable fitness trackers are becoming increasingly popular, as users turn to these devices to help them monitor indicators of their health and physical activity.

See Full Article

But as you strap on your device and head out for the day, one security experts suggests taking a few extra steps to increase the security of your personal data.

Fitness trackers including Fitbit and the Apple Watch are surging in popularity, and are proving to be popular gifts.

On Christmas Day, Fitbit's app was the most downloaded on Apple's app store, suggesting that the fitness trackers were a hot seller during the holiday season.

For those who aren't familiar with them, wearable fitness trackers are devices that can be attached to an individual, and will collect information about the user's physical activity levels.

Commonly collected data include total steps taken, total stairs climbed, total hours of sleep and total calories burned in a day.

This data is often uploaded to a user's personal account, typically registered with their personal email, where they can check their progress over time. Many wearables also allow users to connect with others, to compare and share their progress.

While these devices can help individuals keep track of their activity levels and stay motivated to reach their fitness goals, people should take steps to make sure this information is secure, says Eset Senior Security Researcher Stephen Cobb.

Cobb says that people who use fitness trackers should remember the kinds of often very personal information they're uploading to their accounts.

He pointed to a major security breach last year, when toy-maker VTech, which makes smart watches for children, discovered that the personal information from approximately five million customer accounts related to kids' profiles had been compromised.

"You might say, 'What does it matter if somebody gets my personal information?'" Cobb told CTVNews.ca. "There are two things to worry about, really: One, it's just not really nice if a stranger, potentially a criminal stranger, gets your personal information, and two, there may be attempts to use that information in some sort of scam or scheme."

He suggests people who wear fitness trackers consider taking the following steps to increase the security of their personal information they're uploading to their registered accounts:

1. Give your device a name that is not recognizable, or easily traceable to you. So, for example, don't call your fitness tracker "John Clark's Fitness Tracker." Instead, create a user name for your device which is hard for somebody to track back to you, Cobb said.

2. When creating an online account to store your personal data, use a unique, strong password that is difficult for anyone to guess. Cobb said this is especially important for people who have accounts with multiple services online, and who use the same email and password for each one. People who do this face extra security risks, because if there is a security breach at one company, hackers potentially have access to all of your other accounts, he said.

3. When accepting friends to follow through your fitness tracker, be aware of exactly what information you're sharing and with whom you are sharing it. "The social aspect of fitness trackers is very interesting, and has the potential to improve the value you get from the tracker," Cobb said. "But just like social networking, you want to be very careful who you accept as friends… don't accept people unless you're absolutely sure who they are, and you're clear on what you're sharing."

4. Read the privacy policy that accompanies your fitness tracker, so that you are clear and comfortable with how your information may be used by the company, and how you can limit it, if at all.

5. Keep an eye on the news about these devices. This is especially important, as fitness trackers are relatively new, Cobb said. As they increase in popularity, the risk associated with them may change, he said.

In an email to CTVNews.ca, Fitbit said it has always been committed to protecting consumer privacy and keeping data safe.

"Fitbit has committed to never share users' personal information with others unless the user directs us to," the email said.

The company says it uses "privacy by design" principles, to ensure that transparency, consumer choice and security are prioritized in the design of all Fitbit products. It notes that Fitbit users are in full control of when, or if, they share any of their data, and that these sharing settings are set to private as a default.

"It is the user's choice to share their data," the company said.

In addition to using a unique password for every online account, Fitbit also recommends users take steps to keep their computers free from malware. More information on Fitbit security can be found on its website.

Apple did not reply to CTVNews.ca's request for comment.


Latest Tech & Science News

  • Beer run! Self-driving truck goes 120-plus miles on delivery

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DENVER -- Anheuser-Busch says it has completed the world's first commercial shipment by self-driving truck, sending a beer-filled tractor-trailer on a journey of more than 120 miles through Colorado. The company says it teamed with self-driving truck maker, Otto, and the state of Colorado for the feat. Source
  • Breaching humpback whales draw crowds in small N.S. town

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The mayor of a small town in southwestern Nova Scotia caused quite a stir when he posted photos of an unusual sighting off the town’s shore – a nearby group of humpback whales. Since Digby Mayor Ben Cleveland shared the photos on Facebook, crowds have flocked to the area in the hopes of a catching a glimpse of the majestic creatures for themselves. Source
  • Researchers link virus to Alaska birds with deformed beaks

    Tech & Science CTV News
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Researchers in California and Alaska are hoping they've found what's causing beaks of some bird species to grow twice as fast as normal. The disease is called avian keratin disorder. Affected birds grow beaks that are freakishly long and that sometimes curve up or down. Source
  • Chinese firm issues webcam recall after massive cyberattack

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- A Chinese electronics maker has issued a recall for millions of products sold in the U.S. following a devastating cyberattack, but is pushing back against criticism that its devices played a role in the massive disruption. Source
  • Chinese firm says it did all it could ahead of cyberattack

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- A Chinese electronics maker that has recalled millions of products sold in the U.S. said Tuesday that it did all it could to prevent a massive cyberattack that briefly blocked access to websites including Twitter and Netflix. Source
  • Plunging solar equipment prices fuel trade complaints

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING - Use of solar power is soaring, but Europe's biggest solar panel manufacturer, SolarWorld, took the surprise step last month of cutting 500 jobs from its workforce of 3,000. The reason? Global sales are on track for a record year but prices are plunging due to a glut of supply. Source
  • Dinosaurs of a feather flocked together, University of Alberta study finds

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Bird-like dinosaurs were social creatures and likely flocked together, contrary to the popular image of dinosaurs as solitary creatures, suggests a study at the University of Alberta. "It changes our perception of the species quite a bit," said Gregory Funston, a PhD student and Vanier scholar at the University of Alberta. Source
  • Blurring effect comes to iPhone 7 Plus with software update

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK - Apple's iPhone 7 Plus is getting a new camera capability -- the blurring of backgrounds to focus attention on people or other objects in the foreground. Apple's "portrait mode" feature was announced in September but was unavailable until the company released its iOS 10.1 software update Monday. Source
  • Feathered dinosaurs may have 'flocked' together like modern birds: study

    Tech & Science CTV News
    EDMONTON -- An ancient bone bed in a remote Mongolian desert presents tantalizing clues that dinosaurs of a feather may have flocked together for the same reasons modern birds do. Research by University of Alberta paleontologist Gregory Funston says the deposit contains fossils from a bird-like dinosaur that were all about the same age. Source
  • 'Intentional, malicious' cyberattack led to Ontario literacy test system crash

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The Ontario agency tasked with administering the first online literacy test to tens of thousands of high school students in the province last week says it was forced to pull the plug by an "intentional, malicious and sustained" cyberattack. Source