Can Your Wearable Health Monitors Be Compromised?

Tips & Advice

More senior adults are taking advantage of the array of wearable technology that helps them stay connected to healthcare providers and monitor their physical health and safety. But that newfound convivence comes with risk and, for many, the genuine fear of falling prey to an online hacker.  

Protection + Peace of Mind 

Wearable technology brings seniors both power and peace of mind. Many elderly consumers rely on wearable technology to monitor critical blood glucose levels, heart activity, and blood pressure. In addition, seniors and their families rely on fall detection, emergency alerts, and home security technology to monitor physical safety. Since the pandemic, wearable technology has played a central role in connecting virus-vulnerable seniors to healthcare professionals.  

A recent study cites that 25 percent of U.S. homeowners with broadband internet expect to purchase a new connected consumer health or fitness device within the next year. Another study predicts the global market for wearable healthcare devices will reach $46.6 billion by 2025.  

This kind of data is excellent to show consumer trends, but it also gives cybercriminals a road sign for new inroads into stealing consumer data.  

So how do we dodge the digital dangers of our beloved wearable devices? With time, attention, and a few basics. 

Basic Safety Protocols 

  • Know the risks. The first step is to acknowledge that every digital device brings risk despite a manufacturer’s security claims. That’s why digital security (at any age) begins with personal responsibility and education.  
  • Keep learning. Learn all you can about the device you’ve purchased and research the risks other consumers may have reported. If a security loophole in your device hasn’t hit the headlines yet, give it time. Sadly, just about every device has a security loophole, as ongoing digital threat reports remind us.  
  • Master safety basics. With any new digital purchase, commit to following basic safety protocols. It’s imperative to read device security warnings, configure basic privacy settings, set up strong passwords, and devote yourself to the monitoring of your account after setup.  

Sound like a hassle? Perhaps. However, following these basic protocols is likely far more manageable than having to navigate through the potential chaos connected to a data breach.

6 ways to protect digital wearables 

1. Install updates immediately. When it comes to protecting your wearables, security updates are not optional. Be sure to install the updates (usually with a single click) to protect your device from reported bugs, enhance functionality, and of course, seal up any security loopholes.   

2. Add digital protection. It’s more than a buzz. Extra security solutions such a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and added security software can be your saving grace from prying eyes and help protect the health data you send over the internet. A VPN uses an encrypted connection to send and receive data. For example, if you use a VPN, a hacker trying to eavesdrop on your network will be met with a cacophony of jumbled data on their screen. In addition, installing comprehensive security software can thwart viruses and malware scams from infecting your digital landscape.  

3. Level up your password IQ. Several practices can quickly shore up your password security: 1) Change your device’s default username and password immediately, 2) choose a strong password3) use Two Factor Authentication (2FA), and 4) keep your passwords in one place such as a password manager.   

4. Switch devices off and on. Here’s a fun one—go old school. The National Security Alliance (NSA) recently advised consumers of one powerful way to thwart cybercriminals, especially with smartphones. Turn your device on and off every now and then. Better yet, if a device is not in use, shut it down.  

5. Verify every source. Scams connected to your new device or health condition increasingly look legitimate. For that reason, verify sources, websites, and avoid giving out any personal information, and never send money to an unverified source. Scams come in the form of a phony email, people posing as an IT department or helpdesk, text message, pop-up, calendar invite, or even a direct message on social media. This is where antivirus software can save the day.  

6. Ask for help. Beyond your device manual, Google and YouTube, if you are a senior and still have issues securing a new device, reach out for help. Don’t overlook the help desk associated with your new device, many of which also have a convenient online chat feature. Other possible resources include: Your local library, senior center, Agency on Aging, or community center may have help. In addition, AARP has published a list of helpful IT resources for seniors.  

Having the right technology at your fingertips can feel like magic especially if you are a senior adult with health and safety concerns. In these times of widespread digital insecurity, giving even a little extra time and attention to these basic digital security protocols can bring a new level of peace and power to your daily routine. 

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