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Wearable Gadgets Have Security Flaws

You might want to reconsider getting a smartwatch because wearable gadgets have security flaws. The connected sensors, the strewn hither and the thither are highly sensitive. Add that to the lack of expertise of some manufacturers, and you get a device that is at real risk of getting hacked.

“Wearable devices can be exploited. Attackers can reproduce the trajectories of the user’s hand and recover secret key entries to ATM cash machines, electronic door locks and keypad-controlled enterprise servers,” researchers say.

Wearable Gadgets Have Security Flaws

The discovery was made public by a team of researchers at the Binghamton University. The scientists have published a research paper on the matter, revealing how easy it is to steal precious personal information stored in wearables. Researchers note that “Existing methods of obtaining such secret information relies on installations of dedicated hardware (e.g., video camera or fake keypad), or training with labeled data from body sensors, which restrict use cases in practical adversary scenarios”.

The team has demonstrated how wearable gadgets have security flaws, and wearing such device could end up compromising your ATM PIN, for example. Researchers combined sensor data collected from over 5,000 key entry traces from twenty adults with an algorithm made to infer key entry sequences.

Their experiment resulted in cracking over 80 percent of the PINs on just on the first attempt. The second attempt was even more fruitful – more than a 90 percent accuracy.

As a way to prevent your PIN from being hacked, it is best to input the digits on your smartwatch or other similar device with your other hand. Of course, it would be best if wearable manufacturers actually fix the vulnerability by securing sensing data generated by the wearables more efficiently.

The signal can also be obscured by injecting noise into the data. This assures it is not easily reverse engineered. Apple actually announced that it would start using a technique named “differential privacy” on its iOS 10 to help protect personal user data.

Further information on the security issues can be found in the team’s research paper – named “Friend or Foe?: Your Wearable Devices Reveal Your Personal PIN” – on The ACM Digital Library website.

Do you wear a smartwatch or a similar wearable device? Do you still feel safe using one now that we know that wearable gadgets have security flaws?


About John W Arthur

John is the head of our IT Security team and he writes about Security, IT news on The Next Digit. He was the Employee of the Year 2013 for his selfless support and efficiently setting up the whole security infrastructure. He also occasionally writes on "IT Sec Pro" Print Media of Sweden. All posts by John

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