Are you using a wearable fitness and personal health device to monitor your steps, heart rate, blood pressure, and other personal medical data? This new health trend has become a huge fad for people of all ages. Nearly every user understands the positive features these devices offer. Most are not aware of issues that could compromise their personal information.
The use of wearable fitness and personal health devices is a fast growing industry. Experts at Gartner Research say the devices will be a $5 billion market by 2016. They are a part of a new industry that are involved in the process of capturing, organizing, combining and applying specific and applicable operational technology with IT. It represents the next generation of business transformation.
On the positive side
According to Gartner, when these health sensors and data links are used, healthcare can monitor a patient’s behavior and symptoms in real time and at a relatively low cost, allowing physicians to better diagnose disease and to prescribe tailored treatment regimens. Obviously, it allows each individual to keep track of their personal information daily and over the course of time, too.
What are the hidden dangers?
On the other hand, the 2015 Symantec Internet Security Threat Report raises red flags and hidden dangers that every person using these devices should guard against. They explain that with countless Internet connected wearable devices on the market and more coming, including the highly anticipated Apple Watch, there is an obvious security and privacy threat.
The Symantec report states that there have already been proof-of-concept attacks on Fitbit devices and their researchers have revealed significant vulnerabilities in many devices and applications in this area. They explain that in a review of the 100 health apps in the App Store:
- 20 percent transmitted user credentials without encrypting them
- More than half (52 percent) did not have any privacy policies, and
- On average, each app contacted five Internet domains (typically a mix of advertising and analytic services).
They say the potential exposure of personal data from health-monitoring devices could have serious consequences for individuals, for example, if insurance companies started to use the data to adjust premiums, if people used hacked location data to track other people without their knowledge. Symantec says is a fast-moving and early-stage industry, developers have a strong incentive to offer new functionality and features, but data protection and privacy seem to be a lesser priority.
What should a user do to protect personal information when using a device like this?
There are several steps every user of these devices should do to protect their personal information and fight identity theft.
- Read their privacy policies and make sure they clearly state how your information is used and protected
- Seek programs that use encryption to protect your credentials and personal information
- Avoid programs that connect with advertising and analytic services that could use your information without your permission (This is the most challenging – especially with free apps).
- Subscribe to a whole identity theft protection service that monitors all types of identity theft including personal, financial, medical and other types of fraud.
Everyone should take protecting their personal information and fighting identity theft seriously. Having your identity stolen can cost you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time to clean up. Even then, your stolen information is lost forever. You will never be able to pull it back out of the dark web.
Implement these four steps when selecting any app, not just wearable fitness and personal health devices, to secure your personal information. It is important to understand there are dangers everywhere you go on your mobile phone and on the web. Always take steps to defend against identity theft.