Are our pets leaking information about us? — ScienceDaily

Apps related to pets and animals are creating cyber security risks for their owners, new research has revealed.

While being able to track your cats and dogs may be an attractive benefit to many pet owners as it can provide peace of mind, allowing a third party to track your movements can be much less appealing. tracking.

Computer scientists at the University of Newcastle and Royal Holloway, University of London uncovered numerous security and privacy issues by evaluating 40 popular Android applications for pets and other animals as well as farm animals. The results show that some of these apps are putting their users at risk by exposing their login details or location.

Password vulnerability was one of the areas the team uncovered. They identified three applications where user login details appeared in plain text within insecure HTTP traffic. This means that anyone can observe the internet traffic of someone using one of these apps and find out their login information. In addition to login information, two of the apps also displayed user data, such as their location, which could allow someone to access their devices and expose them to a cyber attack.

Another area of ​​concern identified in the study was the use of trackers. All but four applications were found to contain some form of tracking software. A tracker collects information about the person using the application, how they use it, or the smartphone they are using.

The scientists also warn that the apps perform very poorly in terms of communicating their privacy policy to the user. Their analysis shows that 21 of the apps are tracking the user in some way before the user even has a chance to consent to this, which violates current data protection regulations.

The study was led by the University of Newcastle and the Royal Holloway, University of London and was presented at the 2022 IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops conference.

Scott Harper is a PhD student at Newcastle University’s School of Computing and lead author of the study. He said: “Pettech such as smart collars and GPS trackers for your cat or dog is a fast growing industry and it introduces new security, privacy and safety risks for pet owners.

“While owners may use these apps for peace of mind about the health of their dogs or the whereabouts of their cats, they may not be happy to learn about the risks the applications pose to their own cyber security.

“We would urge anyone using these apps to take the time to make sure they are using a unique password, check the settings and make sure they consider how much data is being shared or happy share.”

Pet tech, the technology in the pet care industry to improve the health, well-being and overall quality of life of pets, is growing rapidly and includes a wide range of products, including GPS trackers, automatic feeders and pet cameras.

Examples of pet technology include wearable devices that monitor a pet’s activity levels, heart rate, and sleep patterns, as well as smart feeding systems that dispense food on a set schedule or in response to the animal’s behavior. There are also apps and platforms that allow owners to track and manage their pet’s health records and connect with veterinary professionals.

Co-author Dr Maryam Mehrnezhad, from the Department of Information Security at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: “We are using modern technologies to improve many aspects of our lives. However, some of these technologies come at a cost. this (often) at the price of our privacy, security, and safety Animal technologies can create complex risks and harms that are not easy to identify and address In this interdisciplinary project, we are working on solutions to risks of to mitigate such and allow animal owners to use such technologies without risk or fear.”

The second study by the research team included a survey of almost 600 participants from the UK, US and Germany. The researchers asked questions about the technologies used, incidents that have occurred or that participants believe may occur, and the methods that participants use to protect their online security and privacy and whether they apply these to their pet technology.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Internet of Things, the results show that participants believe that a range of attacks could occur targeting their pet technology. Despite this, they do not take many precautions to protect themselves and their pets from the potential risks and harms of these technologies.

Co-author Dr Matt Leach, Director of the Center for Comparative Biology, Newcastle University, said: “We are calling on those developing these technologies to increase the security of these devices and applications to reduce the risk of their personal information being shared or reduce position.”

The researchers recommend that those using pet technology, make sure they are using a unique password for that app only, check the settings and consider the data they are sharing. Users should be cautious about any new IoT devices they bring into their home. They should always download apps related to animal technology from known app stores and check the permissions of such apps and revoke any unnecessary permission from them. Guides such as Mozilla’s `*Privacy Not Included’ project are available to help inform consumers of potential security and privacy risks.

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