A British security research firm has found that children’s tracker watches have weak security and may be easily hacked. If your child is using a Tracker Watch, then beware! It may be hackable.
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Many parents have bought these “smart” watches for their child. The tracker watches are worn by the child and report their position to their parents via a mobile app. They are designed to increase child safety as you always know where your child is.
A security researcher from UK-based Pen Test Partners became curious about these kids watches when a friend bought a Misafes watch for his child.
However, Alan Monie and his colleague Ken Munro tested the watch’s security measures and found the devices neither encrypted the data they used nor secured each child’s account.
Their research shows that many of these watch brands actually decrease the security of the child and expose them to those who have less than good intentions.
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A Simple Hack Can Make the GPS Watches Unsafe
From a relatively simple hack that anyone with PC software could do, they were able to track children’s movements, surreptitiously listen in to their activities and make fake calls to the watches that appeared to be from parents.
“Once a hacker has the parent’s number, they could spoof a call to appear to come from it and the child would now think it’s their mum or dad dialling,” said Munro.
“So they could leave a voice message or speak to the child to convince them to leave their house and go to a convenient location.”
The researchers demonstrated that anyone on the internet could:
- locate your child on a map in real time, such as at the play park
- call your child on their watch
- covertly snoop on both you and your child, listening to you both
- send messages to your child on the watch, appearing to be from you
- retrieve a photo of your child, plus their name, date of birth, gender, weight & height
This did not require advanced skill, it was well within the capability of an attacker with basic coding skills using only free tools.
“It’s probably the simplest hack we have ever seen,” Monie told the BBC. “I wish it was more complicated. It isn’t.”
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Many Kids Tracker Watch Brands Are Affected
The research was carried out on watches branded ‘Misafes kids watcher’ and appears to affect up to 30,000 watches. They also discovered at least 53 other kids tracker watch brands that are affected by identical or near-identical security issues.
So far their continued research indicates at least one million tracker watches in use today are affected.
What Should Parents Do?
The Norwegian Consumer Council also highlighted cases of child-targeted smartwatches with security flaws last year.
“This is another example of unsecure products that should never have reached the market,” said Gro Mette Moen, the watchdog’s acting director of digital services.
Their advice is to refrain from buying these smartwatches until the sellers can prove that their features and security standards are satisfactory.
Pen Test Partners recommend that you do not use a GPS watch to track your child, owing to serious security concerns that threaten both you and your child.
If the manufacturer of the watch can provide you with evidence that their system is secure, then they say that it would be reasonable to continue using the watch.
Over to you now. Has your child been using a tracker watch? Tell us in the comments below.