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Your fitness tracker is a SNITCH says Symantec

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If you're the kind of person whose gadgets auto-tweet your exercise, sex or sleep habits – all vanguard applications of the odiously-named “quantified self” movement – you can be tracked, identified and hacked, according to Symantec.

In this post, the security outfit explains that the age-old desire for gadget convenience has, once again, taken security out behind the shed for a quiet bullet.

With a handful of suitably-equipped Raspberry Pi devices, the company says, it was able to demonstrate that devices are trackable, some of them use apps that pass sensitive data in clear text, data leakage is common, and some offerings had poor security at the server-side.

Both wearables and apps that use smartphone sensors were examined in the test.

The tracker-tracker, which Symantec dubs “Blueberry Pi”, is nothing more than an RPi with Bluetooth 4.0, a battery pack, a 4GB SD card, open source software and a little custom scripting, put together for $USD75. These were tested in public areas in Ireland and Switzerland, including at a public footrace.

The wearable devices identify themselves by transmitting their MAC address – so once a device is associated with an individual, tracking is trivial, even without seeking to force a remote connection to the device. The researchers note that some such devices “may allow for remote querying” but they didn't test this.

Apps associated with the devices were even worse: 20 per cent of them don't bother encrypting user credentials they pass up to their cloud services. Those cloud services are badly implemented as well, from a privacy point of view, with many apps reporting not just to the maker, but also chatting to marketing outfits' analytics servers.

This, Symantec says, offers plenty of scope for data leakage: “in one app that tracks sexual activity, the app makes specific requests to an analytics service URL at the start and end of each session. In its communication, the app passes a unique ID for the app instance and the app name itself as well as messages indicating start and stop of the tracked activity.”

The company also pings developers for a lack of privacy policies (52 per cent of the relevant apps had none at all), and poor segregation of user data at the server side: “In one example it was possible to browse personal data belonging to other users of the site. In another instance, it was possible for an attacker to upload SQL statements, such as commands to create tables in the database, to the server for execution.”

The full paper is here. ®

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