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

  • Sidewalk Labs 'hadn't foreseen' data concerns in high-tech Toronto neighbourhood

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Sidewalk Labs "hadn't foreseen" how fiercely Canadians would demand that their data be retained within the country when it first sought out to design a "people first" high-tech neighbourhood in east Toronto, says one of the local leaders working with the start-up, which is owned by Google's parent company Alphabet. Source
  • With the threat of regulation looming, Google doubles down on its fight against false news

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Amid growing concern that some of the world's largest and most influential tech companies are failing to adequately protect users from the misuse of their platforms, Google is doubling down on its own efforts to curb the spread of misinformation and false news. Source
  • Canada's privacy watchdog launches investigation into Facebook after allegations of data leak

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Canada's privacy watchdog has launched an investigation into Facebook after a series of media reports alleged that private online information belonging to millions of Americans was obtained by a company working on U.S. President Donald Trump's election campaign. Source
  • Mysterious free-roaming hippo captured in southern Mexico

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A local offers a hippopotamus which locals have named Tyson, a branch to snack on, in Las Chopas, Veracruz state, Mexico, Friday, March 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Serrano) Source
  • Ashes of Stephen Hawking to be placed in Westminster Abbey

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LONDON -- The ashes of celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking will be interred at London's Westminster Abbey near the grave of Isaac Newton. A spokesman for the abbey said Tuesday the ashes will be placed there later this year at a thanksgiving service. Source
  • Google launches news initiative to support media, combat fake news

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Google is rolling out a news initiative aimed at supporting quality journalism by stopping the spread of fake news and helping publishers pick up more subscribers. The technology company says the $300-million initiative will adjust algorithms and use new services to make users see links from publications they pay for higher up in their search results. Source
  • Canadians vulnerable to politically-motivated Facebook data abuse

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Every like, share and click you perform on Facebook is already being used to target you with content and consumer advertising, but experts warn that activity can also be used to subtly (and sometimes dishonestly) influence your political beliefs, especially with a federal election looming next year. Source
  • Indian wildlife sanctuary sees jump in one-horned rhinos

    Tech & Science CTV News
    GAUHATI, India -- A tiny wildlife sanctuary in northeastern India has reported a jump in the number of one-horned rhinoceroses. All of the world's five rhino species are under threat from poachers who sell their horns on black markets, often in countries where rhino horn is believed to increase male potency. Source
  • Crash marks first death involving fully autonomous vehicle

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TEMPE, Ariz. -- A fatal pedestrian crash involving a self-driving Uber SUV in a Phoenix suburb could have far-reaching consequences for the new technology as automakers and other companies race to be the first with cars that operate on their own. Source
  • There was one male northern white rhino left, and we euthanized it

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NAIROBI, Kenya -- The world's last male northern white rhino, Sudan, has died after "age-related complications," researchers announced Tuesday, saying he "stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength." A statement from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya said the 45-year-old rhino was euthanized on Monday after his condition "worsened significantly" and he was no longer able to stand. Source