London, Feb 28 (IANS) Are you one of those pet parents using smart collars, GPS tracking apps, automatic feeders and pet cameras for the well being of your dogs and cats? Beware, pet and animal-related apps are creating cybersecurity risks to their owners, new research has shown.
A team of computer scientists from the universities of Newcastle and London exposed multiple security and privacy issues by evaluating 40 popular Android apps for pets and other companion animals as well as farm animals.
The results show that several of these apps are putting their users at risk by exposing their login or location details.
“Pet tech such as smart collars and GPS trackers for your cat or dog, is a rapidly growing industry and it brings with it new security, privacy, and safety risks to the pet owners,” said lead author Scott Harper, a doctoral student at Newcastle.
Three applications had the user’s login details visible in plain text within non-secure HTTP traffic. This means that anyone is able to observe the internet traffic of someone using one of these apps and will be able to find out their login information.
In addition, two of the apps showed user details, such as their location, that may enable someone to gain access to their devices and risk a cyber-attack.
Another concern was the use of trackers. All but four of the applications were found to feature some form of tracking software. A tracker gathers information on the person using the application, on how they use it, or on the smartphone being used.
“We would urge anyone using these apps to take the time to ensure they are using a unique password, check the settings and ensure that they consider how much data they are sharing or willing to share,a Harper said.
The findings were presented at the 2022 IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops conference.