Fitness trackers posing security risks

Tips from IT engineer on protecting your privacy

Fitness tracking devices such as Fitbit could have serious security flaws.
Fitness tracking devices such as the Fitbit could have serious security flaws, according to a recent study. (Toronto Observer)

Steven Williams likes to jog. He runs through High Park with his dog everyday and participates in marathons. But, while the recent study by the University of Toronto showing serious security flaws in fitness trackers has frightened many people, Williams is not concerned.

His job as an IT security engineer has made him well aware of the risks of everyday electronics.

“The Fitness tracker issue is just the tip of the iceberg,” Williams  said. “Just walking down the road you can see a ton of people with bad IT security.”

Tracking every day activities has become a popular and common place activity with a variety of apps available on smartphones and fitness products. The danger with these devices, according to Williams, is that most people don’t know what their electronics are transmitting.

3 ways to protect your online privacy

1. Restrict internet access to essential apps and programs.
2. Research your electronics before purchase to see if they have any know security flaws.
3. Limit the amount of third-party software you use.

“Most people don’t know what their phones are sending to the internet,” said Williams. “There are so many apps and tracking features on phones that it is almost impossible to stop information about yourself from being sent from your phone.”

For most people the pre-installed tracking services on their electronics do not pose a serious threat or risk. It’s when they start adding apps and other features to their devices that security becomes a concern.

“Usually pre-installed software is okay to use — it’s all the different third party apps that people download that cause major security and privacy issues,” Williams said. “A lot of the apps out there have not been vigorously checked for exploits and security flaws and they have the potential to be used for less than good purposes.”

According to Williams, the best and most simple way to protect yourself is to limit the amount of apps that require a constant internet connection to function.

“The Internet is your worst friend — it lures you in with a promise of untold amounts of knowledge and entertainment but it can come with a hefty price if not used correctly.”