When gyms were forced to close last year, you likely looked for other ways to get some exercise and stay active during quarantine. From investing in a few pairs of dumbbells or perhaps downloading an app or two to help you track your workouts, you found alternatives to help you break a sweat. As an accessible, easy way to release endorphins, running quickly grew in popularity along with the platforms that help runners stay accountable. According to Runner’s World, there was a 34% uptick in outdoor miles logged by common fitness apps between March and September 2020 compared to the same stretch in 2019. But are these tools potentially endangering your privacy?
According to TechCrunch, running apps could potentially threaten your security if the data they collect ends up in the wrong hands. Let’s explore the functionalities of these apps and how they could pose a threat to your online safety.
Running Apps Do Not Have a Secure Track Record
Running apps are solid companions for advanced and amateur runners alike, allowing you to track the length of your run and set a pace for yourself. These apps learn a lot about you the more you use them by gathering health data like your height and weight and even your location. But similar to the threats that exist when you overshare on other online platforms, this data could pose a serious threat to your privacy. For example, location data could identify where you live or where you work – information that you definitely wouldn’t want in the hands of a stranger. If a cybercriminal is able to hack into your account, they could exploit this information to commit identity theft or craft a phishing email disguised as your employer.
Additionally, many of these apps lack basic security measures to prevent hackers from breaking into accounts or from health and fitness data from spilling out. For example, many popular running apps allow the most basic passwords like “qwerty” and “password.” Oftentimes, hackers automate their attacks by targeting accounts with easy-to-crack passwords like the ones mentioned. This allows them to exploit the most accounts with as little effort as possible. Furthermore, these apps do not have the option to set up two-factor authentication, which creates an additional barrier to prevent hackers from exploiting reused passwords.
How Can You Hit Your Security Stride?
No matter where you are in your fitness journey, it is essential to take the necessary precautions to minimize the risks of the platforms you use to hold yourself accountable – running apps included. If you are looking to hit your stride while keeping security and privacy top of mind, follow these tips:
1. Use a strong, unique password
Your password is your first line of defense, so it is important that you use one that is strong and unique to your other account credentials. If a hacker does manage to guess your password for one of your online accounts, it is likely they will check for repeat credentials across multiple sites. By using different passwords or passphrases, you can feel slightly more at ease knowing that the majority of your data is secure if one of your accounts becomes vulnerable.
You can also use a password manager to help you create strong passwords, remove the hassle of remembering numerous passwords, and log on to websites automatically.
2. Update your app’s privacy settings
Some running apps are configured to publicly share user data by default. After you download an app, spend some time researching how to change these settings so your data is not shared with strangers without your permission.
3. Turn on automatic software updates
If your running app of choice does undergo any security updates, make sure that they are installed as soon as possible. Developers actively work to identify and address security issues. Frequently update your operating systems and apps so that they have the latest fixes and security protections. The easiest way to do this is to enable automatic software updates on your mobile device.
4. Disable unnecessary features
Next time you go for a run with your location services on, think again about what risks this poses to your virtual security and your physical safety. Enhance your security by only enabling the features that are necessary to optimize your fitness performance. This will help prevent hackers from using your location as a vehicle to invade your privacy.
Reduce the Risk of Running Apps to Stay Secure
Since the data collected on running apps involves sensitive health and location information, it is worth reviewing the privacy policies for all of the fitness platforms you regularly use to see how your data might be affected. To ensure that you can keep moving toward your fitness goals while protecting your online safety, stay educated on the tools you use to track your progress and implement the necessary security measure to do so with security in mind.
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