Technology for the improvement of the well-being of our pets is a rapidly growing industry, with a large number of inventions being introduced each year. The majority of these products are wearable, with devices that monitor a pet's location, activity and heart rate, as well as smart feeding systems that deliver food according to a schedule or the pet's behaviour. All of this is controlled by an app that the pet's owner can use to dictate to and gain knowledge of the latest developments in the pet's life. Little did pet owners know that they were making themselves vulnerable to cyber-attacks, as most of the pet apps they subscribe to have porous security and privacy issues, exposing their data to any prying eye.
Researchers from two reckon British universities, namely, Newcastle university and Royal Holoway, University of London, studied 40 of the most popular pet apps and got the following findings:
- three of the apps have the users’ login details visible and insecure in plain text within HTTP traffic information which passes through the device and the internet
- all but four out of the 40 pet-tech apps had tracking software which stores information about the person using the app, method of usage, and device the app is linked to
- 21 out of 40 of the apps start tracking the pet owner prospect prior before he subscribes to the service, which violates data protection regulation.
The researchers found that app passwords and pet locations are most often exposed because these app providers have no security in place to limit exposure. The shock of the whole revelation is that most users are unaware of the dangers they face due to the complacency of app providers.
To curb this, the researchers advised pet owners to consider how much personal information they are willing to share before signing up for a pet tech app. They also advised pet app developers to strengthen their security features to reduce the risk of subscribers' location and personal information being exposed.