Can a smartwatch be hacked?

Smartwatches are smart devices that are prone to getting compromised if the users do not pay attention to the basics of smartwatch security. In a way, it is very difficult to hack the smartwatch directly. We look at the details on how a smartwatch poses risks to the wearer. What all can be hacked when it comes to smartwatch?

What threats are posed by a hacked Smartwatch?

A hacked smartwatch would, generally speaking, cause information disclosure or data theft threats or vulnerabilities. Your privacy details and information can be targeted by an exploited smartphone or smartwatch. On a similar note, financial information could be easily targeted through the paired smartphone or the smartwatch by an attacker.

Smartwatch eco-system

For a smartwatch to work properly, you require a smartphone as well. Smartwatch and smartphone work together to give a complete experience to the smartwatch user. Besides smartphone and smartwatch, there is Bluetooth, ANT+ and Wi-Fi wireless protocols that pose risks of information disclosure and information theft.

Most risks to smartwatch security would majorly arise through the smartphone and wireless protocols. The smartwatch, on its own, is less likely to be exploited on account of the nature of closed operating systems of the smartwatch.

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Smartwatch Operating Systems

Most smartwatches are based on proprietary operating systems.

  • Garmin watches are based on the Garmin operating system
  • Fitbit smartwatches are based on the Fitbit operating system or Fitbit OS.
  • Apple Watch is based on the watchOS platform.
  • Samsung Galaxy smartwatches are based on the Tizen operating system.
  • Samsung Galaxy 4 smartwatches are based on Google’s wearOS.
  • Amazfit is based on the wearOS operating system.

Of these, Garmin, Fitbit and Apple operating systems are closed. There is little risk of these operating systems being exploited. And, there is little chance of a malicious app that tries to interfere with the watch’s functioning and features.

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Apps on Smartwatches

One of the biggest risks to the smartwatch security would have to happen through the malicious apps that can be deployed on the smartwatch. Therefore, it is pertinent to ensure app security and validate the app antecedents before you deploy it on the smartwatch. Third-party apps could carry risks for your smartwatch security. The apps could also steal information from your smartwatch. You need to be specially careful if you have wallet information on the watch.

NFC payments through smartwatch require wallet information. A malicious app could be used to steal financial information. Therefore, do ensure that you are installing only clean apps on the smartwatch.

It makes sense to watch out for any special permissions accorded to smartwatch apps.

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Watch Faces on Smartwatch

Most smartwatch users prefer to use custom watch faces that can be downloaded from the watch manufacturer’s marketplace. Again, you would need to be careful of the permissions required for the functioning of custom watch faces. There have been valid privacy concerns about the extent and type of information available to watch faces on the smartwatch. Feature rich watch faces are more likely to require extensive permissions. Therefore, be thoughtful before getting watch faces that are feature rich that could even interfere with functionality of watches.

It would be a good idea to check the watch face developer’s background and reputation as well.

Smartphones paired with Smartwatches

Smartphones are required to manage the smartwatch and even deploy updates on the watch. Initial registration of the smartwatch also takes place through the smartphone. There are varied features that also require smartwatch and smartphone to work together. You may play music through the smartphone paired with the smartwatch. Health monitoring through the smartwatch also sends data to the smartphone. There is a lot of information and data that flows between the smartwatch and the smartphone.

A lot of data collected through the smartwatch resides on the smartphone. And, we all know that smartphones can be hacked and exploited. If the smartphone paired with smartwatch is hacked, your smartwatch data and information can also be stolen or exploited.

For the smartphone to be secure, it is important that must deploy an anti-malware and an anti-virus software on the smartwatch. Especially if your smartphone is on the Android operating system.

Wireless Protocols – ANT+, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

Wireless networks are used to carry your data and information from the smartwatch to public networks or from the smartwatch to the paired smartphone. Expert hackers can easily target Bluetooth networks and Wi-Fi networks in a bid to steal information or to sniff the data travelling over the wireless network.

It is all about taking little steps of basics of wireless network security. You must spend time on improving security of the wireless networks, especially the Wi-Fi networks.

Most smartwatches use Bluetooth protocol extensively. The same holds true for the Wi-Fi networks.

Summary

Smartwatches can be hacked through paired smartphone, wireless networks, watch faces, and even third-party apps. As a smartwatch owner, you must take basic steps to enhance the security of your smartwatch and smartphone at all times. And, it would be pertinent to mention that public Wi-Fi networks must be avoided at all times as these could increase the risks of information disclosure and data theft.

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