Perhaps you’ve heard of hackers, viruses, and internet security. If you possess any knowledge about these staples of the digital world, you’re already ahead! However, there is so much to cover and be cautious of in the digital realm. This can be separated into two categories; privacy and cybersecurity. These categories are equally as important, while the path to improving one’s privacy and cybersecurity requires different solutions.
Privacy is about your personal data rights and the protection of your personal data. In fact, strict international regulations like the GDPR and CCPA exist precisely for this reason. The other, cybersecurity, is about preventing events like cyber attacks and intrusions on your devices which can compromise both the device itself and your personal data. On today’s internet, it is critical to have a good grasp of both concepts.
For instance, our smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktop PCs and more can all be compromised and hacked. However, do you know that smartwatch privacy risks exist? This one usually catches people off guard. Indeed, even tiny devices like the smartwatch you may own might pose privacy risks if you are not careful enough. Although it may sound far-fetched, smartwatches are, after all, devices with a powerful microprocessor and the ability to connect to the internet. This is easy to forget, but must be kept in mind.
This, in turn, means smartwatches need to run an operating system. An operating system is a complex set of codes that create a GUI or Graphical User Interface for us to interact with. All of us who own a device interacts with an OS.
For Apple smartwatches, for instance, this is called watchOS. For Android smartwatches, there is Wear OS, for instance.
So, everything we’ve mentioned so far means that there are opportunities for cyber and privacy risks for hackers to exploit. These can range from exploiting a software vulnerability to listening in on our smartwatch microphones.
There are several precautions and other measures that you can take to minimize privacy risks relating to your smartwatch. The good news is that a lot of these measures will also boost your smartwatch security.
Read on to find out more about smartwatch privacy risks and how to address them properly.
Smartwatch Privacy Risks Overview
To understand smartwatch privacy risks, it is important to understand what it is inside a smartwatch that can lead to privacy risks in the first place. Smartwatches belong to a category of devices called IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices. Other IoT devices include smart TVs, and anything else with the label “smart” which essentially means they are internet-connected and/or have access to your local area network (LAN).
Starting off with the hardware inside a modern smartwatch, typically you will find all sorts of physical sensors such as those that register movement, temperature, and sometimes even elevation as well as a highly sensitive microphone. You will also find a Bluetooth chip and a GPS inside modern smartwatches. Then, there is the software aspect of things. In terms of software, there are apps that can cause privacy issues as well as what sort of data the operating system itself relays to Apple’s servers and other servers.
Starting off with Bluetooth, this technology has been hijacked by hackers several times. This means that the Bluetooth connection on your smartwatch can be intercepted and even lead to hacking of your router. Next, we need to understand what your sensors and GPS do. Every smartwatch has a location-tracking ability, which is what the sensors are mostly there for. Thus, a smartwatch can track your precise location anywhere in the world!
Moving on, there is a microphone inside of a smartwatch. This in itself may be a privacy concern for many people. The fact that you can never know if you are being listened to is scary enough, while simply downloading a shady third-party app can have others accessing your microphone and listening in on you or your family. When it comes to software, it is such apps that are the main issue. You must ensure that the apps you download are verified and community-approved.
How to Improve Smartwatch Privacy
Choosing a trustworthy retailer for your smartwatch might increase your security. A larger, more renowned business stands to lose more from a security compromise. This means that you should go for a first-class smartwatch from the likes of Apple, who are clearly more focused on privacy than others. The same is valid for purchased and installed apps. Apps developed by reputable firms are more likely to have undergone extensive testing for security flaws.
Your online habits and interests can be kept confidential by using a VPN, or virtual private network. Your data is first encrypted before being delivered to a VPN server, avoiding direct connections to websites and services online. Instead of sending the information to you directly, the website responds to a request from the VPN server and returns the data to that server. Your privacy is protected since you never have direct interactions with the website. Only the data you voluntarily share is where a VPN won’t help you.
To establish a VPN connection to your smartwatch, there are some things you need to do. For instance, on your home computer, install a premium VPN. Then in your Windows or Mac settings share a VPN-enabled “mobile hotspot” to which your smartwatch can connect to. Presto! Your smartwatch connection is now VPN-ized.
Finally, you need to scrutinize the privacy and security settings on your smartwatch. It would help if you looked at disabling any diagnostics being reported, disabling location permissions for apps you do not approve, or disabling location features altogether. Remember, your smartwatch, or any other internet-enabled device with an operating system comes with default settings. These settings, most of the time, are not sufficient to be called “private” or “secure.” Scrutinize your device before you connect to the internet and set it up the way you want!