Parenting 3 min. read

The terrifying truth about child GPS watches — and how predators can easily hack them

The terrifying truth about child GPS watches — and how predators can easily hack them

You may think that you’re protecting them. After all, the ability to track their location on your phone gives you peace of mind. You know where they are. That they’re safe.

The reality, however, is that you’re also granting that access to stalkers or child predators. Having your child wear a GPS watch may seem like the responsible thing to do, but these watches are woefully insecure.

Major security flaws in child-tracking GPS watches allow total strangers to eavesdrop on your child. They can even talk to them through the device or use the watch’s camera to take their picture. And, of course, they can see precisely where your child is at all times.

This has been a known issue for about a year now. In fact, the Gator 2 watch  — and numerous other smart watches that connect to the internet — were removed from certain stores due to their security flaws, most notably from John Lewis in the UK. In fact, the “Enox Safe Kid One” GPS watch has just been recalled by the European Union over privacy concerns.

It seems, then, that nothing has changed.

A new report from Pen Test Partners (the same group who published the damning report little over a year ago) confirmed this. Its team performed security checks on Gator and other kids’ smart watches. Again, they easily managed to hack in.

Gator, for its part, patched this new flaw in 48 hours. But it’s a worrying trend for smart watches in general, especially the ones we strap to the wrist of our children.

“Our advice is to avoid watches with this sort of functionality like the plague,” said a rep from Pen Test Partners. “They don’t decrease your risk (of your child becoming a victim), they actively increase it.”

The problem, the group said, is that the profit margin for smart watches is so low that the companies lack the ability to adequately invest in security. If you go online, you can find kid’s GPS watches for around $40. The features include a color screen, games, a camera, GPS, step counters, fitness challenges, and so on.

In short, it’s a whole lot of functionality for a diminutive price tag. Hence corners were likely cut when it comes to security.

We’ve talked about this a lot here, but IoT devices (gadgets that connect to the internet) are not designed with security in mind. They’re designed to add convenience and enrich our lives in some specific way. Hackers are typically an afterthought.

Perhaps we can overlook that when it comes to things like smart light bulbs. After all, who wants to hack a light bulb with the only ability to constantly flicker it on and off? It may freak out the owner, but it’s not a major security risk.

A child’s GPS watch, however, is a different story. The only reason you, as a parent, purchase this product may be to keep them safer. But if the device is severely vulnerable to stalkers hacking their way in, you’re actually putting them at risk.

One year on, there are no signs of improvement in smart watch security. These devices are becoming more sophisticated in terms of features, but not at preventing breaches. It’s not just Gator watches, either. Many of the leading brands contain security flaws.

Our advice: Be wary about what you strap to your kid’s wrist. Because you might not be the only one who can track them.

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