Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

7/23/2015
11:00 AM
Lysa Myers
Lysa Myers
Commentary
Connect Directly
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Internet of Things: Anything You Track Could Be Used Against You

Lawyers - not security advocates - have fired the first salvos over wearable tech privacy. The results may surprise you.

Security advocates have been bringing up privacy concerns surrounding wearable devices in the Internet of Things a lot lately. But why would anyone care about the information tracked with fitness devices? Unsurprisingly, the first real-world answer to this question has come from lawyers in a couple of recent court cases.

What data are useful?

Those fitness trackers that have become omnipresent on people’s wrists are essentially behavior trackers. In ways analogous to how cookies track your activity online, fitness trackers track your activity in “meatspace,” the world of flesh and blood and the opposite of cyberspace. Trackers, as the name implies, allow you to track when you move, how far you move, how long you move for, where you move and, increasingly in what ways you move.

As fitness trackers become more sophisticated, they will be able to tell the difference between the movement of restful and fitful sleep, or skiing versus running versus climbing stairs, and log these data accordingly. Devices with heart rate monitors can give more accurate accounts of the exertion of exercise, or the soundness of sleep. Devices with GPS can tell when you’re exercising at home or at the gym, and they can track the length or path of your routes when you exercise outside. Devices that include altimeters can track changes in elevation during your activity as well.

Obviously, the more information that is tracked, the more useful it is for the purposes of accurately assessing caloric deficit or changes in performance. Some people share these data publicly, or within private forums to reap the benefits of collaboration with others who are tracking their own fitness. And some people choose to keep these data private. But the fact that this wealth of data is being tracked at all means that it may be of interest to others.

What is being done with the data?

The biggest fear most people have about these data is that a stalker or burglar could use them. But there are more mundane uses for third party purposes. We’re already starting to see tracking information used by insurance companies (as a “carrot” rather than as a “stick”) to positively motivate people to increase healthy activity. 

Perhaps less surprisingly, law enforcement and lawyers are using this information to prosecute crimes. In one case, according to a recent article in Engadget, a plaintiff accused a defendant of invading her home and attacking her while she slept. However tracking data used by the defense was able to show that the plaintiff had not been sleeping at the time of the alleged attack. In another case last year, the plaintiff introduced her own tracking data to show decreased activity as a result of an injury.

These examples clearly show that there’s a potential upside and a downside to storing a record of your activity day and night. (Presumably the first plaintiff didn’t expect that the result of bringing her claim would be getting charged with a misdemeanor herself!) Much like tracking online behavior, it can be used for good or for ill. The question that we need to be asking ourselves before committing to recording this information is whether the potential upside outweighs the potential downside.

I suspect for most people, their wearable experiment is so short-lived that it’s a non-issue. For those who do wear their device on a regular basis for a long period of time, the majority will probably find the benefit far outweighs the risk. But to those people for whom these devices pose a risk, the risk is considerable. And as crime is by nature opportunistic and somewhat unpredictable, it is hard to know when or if that person at risk will be you.

Lysa Myers began her tenure in malware research labs in the weeks before the Melissa virus outbreak in 1999. She has watched both the malware landscape and the security technologies used to prevent threats from growing and changing dramatically. Because keeping up with all ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Commentary
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
Edge-DRsplash-11-edge-ask-the-experts
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
News
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Zero Trust doesn't have to break your budget!
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-31476
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of Foxit PhantomPDF 10.1.3.37598. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability in that the target must visit a malicious page or open a malicious file. The specific flaw exists within the han...
CVE-2021-31477
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of GE Reason RPV311 14A03. Authentication is not required to exploit this vulnerability. The specific flaw exists within the firmware and filesystem of the device. The firmware and filesystem contain hard-...
CVE-2021-32690
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
Helm is a tool for managing Charts (packages of pre-configured Kubernetes resources). In versions of helm prior to 3.6.1, a vulnerability exists where the username and password credentials associated with a Helm repository could be passed on to another domain referenced by that Helm repository. This...
CVE-2021-32691
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
Apollos Apps is an open source platform for launching church-related apps. In Apollos Apps versions prior to 2.20.0, new user registrations are able to access anyone's account by only knowing their basic profile information (name, birthday, gender, etc). This includes all app functionality within th...
CVE-2021-32243
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
FOGProject v1.5.9 is affected by a File Upload RCE (Authenticated).