Smartwatches are swell devices for those looking to combine wearable chic with next-level functionality. They track your health, remind you of your meetings, and—naturally—tell the time. However, like pretty much any electronic device these days, there are security concerns to be aware of.
Earlier this year, a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology discovered it was possible for hackers to steal ATM PINs from smartwatches. All they had to do was sniff the data packets exchanged between your smartwatch and your smartphone.
Given that a good part of data privacy is data security, here’s a quick guide to help make sure your smartwatch isn’t making you vulnerable to hackers.
1. Safeguard your smartphone
That’s not a typo—smartwatch security begins on your smartphone. As the case with the ATM PIN demonstrates, one of the big points of vulnerability is the communication link between your smartwatch and your smartphone. Scarier yet, hackers don’t have to infiltrate both to sniff data—they only need access to one.
The easiest way for someone else to get into your smartphone is through bogus apps. This is most prevalent on phones running Android, but phones runnings iOS aren’t entirely immune. A good rule of thumb is to stick to apps sold in the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store. Research the credibility of apps before you download. And if you’re an iOS user, jailbreaking your phone—while liberating—can open you up to some security headaches.
2. Regularly update your smartwatch software
Developers put out updates for a reason. Not only do they usually enhance the performance of a given operating system or app, but they also fix dangerous security flaws.
While it can be annoying to wait 30 seconds while your smartwatch or favorite app reboots, it could save you from having to spend hours dealing with unscrupulous hackers.
3. Be careful with your fitness data
As this blog has written before, hackers aren’t the only ones who can wreak havoc with your data—advertisers and insurance companies can as well. Companies will often buy data about consumers in order to inform their marketing and pricing.
This is especially worrisome when it comes to health and fitness data. Smartwatches can carry a lot of desirable information about you. For instance, if an insurance company sees you have heart troubles, or that you eat a high amount of saturated fat, they might try and hit you with unwanted premiums, or worse, refuse to insure you at all.
Before using any fitness app, check the privacy settings. Choose what gets publicly shared. Also, consider using an alias as a username so that your daily consumption of sodium can’t be tied back to you.
4. Enable settings that deter theft
Beyond the digital dangers you might run into, one thing to always keep in mind: Someone could just steal your smartwatch and get your data that way.
Smartwatch makers are aware of that possibility. That’s why many have created security settings intended to deter theft. Take Apple’s Activation Lock—it prevents would-be thieves from pairing your Apple Watch with an unapproved device. Other smartwatches have their own take on this, so no matter what the name of the feature is, make sure it’s enabled!
Some easy steps to keep your smartwatch secure
At the end of the day, keeping your smartwatch safe is fairly simple:
- Be smart about what apps you put on your smartphone
- Update your apps
- Keep a lock on your fitness data
- Enable theft deterrence settings
Keep these tips in mind and you can be sure your smartwatch is as secure as it is stylish.
Are you a savvy smartwatch owner with your own thoughts on how others can up their security game? Any harrowing experiences where you forgot to protect your smartwatch or your smartphone? Share your opinions in the comments below!