Bad dog (app)! Study shows cyber security on “smart” pet tech isn’t

While apps dealing with banking and shopping have to be secure by their very nature, a new study from Newcastle University and Royal Holloway, University of London has found increasingly popular “smart” tech for your pet doesn’t boast that kind of protection.

That can leave you vulnerable to hackers and other bad actors via the gadgets and/or their linked apps.

As technology for pets booms, items such as “smart” tracking collars and even automatic feeders all too often are leaving families unprotected, the researchers found. 

The analysts found 21 of 40 pet-related apps had poor password protection on the company’s end — making it easy for cyber criminals to sniff out users’ information. Even worse, because many of the so-called smart devices can track your pet’s whereabouts, the poorly protected info can give the bad guys step-by-step access to your location — seeing as you’re likely the person walking Fido.

What’s more, the apps found to be lacking also latched onto users’ locations and usage even before giving pet owners a chance to opt out of it, which would violate data protection rules in your average app.

Also at issue is user error: While many people take their online safety seriously in other areas, they tend not to for pet-related apps. 

Study co-author Dr. Maryam Mehrnezhad, from Royal Holloway, University of London’s Department of Information Security, noted, “We are using modern technologies to improve several aspects of our lives. However, some of these (often) cheap technologies come at the price of our privacy, security, and safety. Animal technologies can create complex risks and harms that are not easy to recognise and address.”