When we think about smartwatches, convenience comes to mind. These smart devices make it easy to check messages, make phone calls, listen to podcasts or music, track fitness or even complete contactless purchases.
What we don’t often think about is how much information these little devices hold. Smartwatches are like miniature versions of our smartphones — which means they contain a ton of personal data. Your payment information and personal data are all up for grabs via your watch. Even the health apps you use can put your privacy at risk if you aren’t careful.
You wouldn’t let your smartphone be open and accessible to criminals, so why are we more careless with our smartwatches? We don’t have to be — there are tons of settings that will secure these devices like Fort Knox. Here’s what you need to know about staying safe with smartwatch security features.
One of the biggest security risks with Apple Watch is your data. Your Apple Watch, whether it’s a new one or an early version, contains important information — even when disconnected from an iPhone. This includes your Apple Pay, which could be compromised if your Apple Watch is lost or stolen.
Luckily, there are ways to secure it and the information it contains. These features are helpful if your watch lands in the wrong hands. You don’t want a thief getting access to your payment information or private data. That could lead to some serious issues if it happens.
To stay safe with Apple Watch and avoid your information and data being compromised, you should:
1. Set a long passcode.
One of the best ways to secure your Apple Watch and its data is by locking it with a passcode. This is required if you’re using Apple Pay on your watch, so it may already be set up.
If you don’t select a passcode during setup and want to add one later, go to the Watch app on your iPhone and select My Watch > Passcode. You’ll be asked to enter either a simple four-digit code or a passcode with 5-10 digits. It will depend on the version of the Apple Watch you’re using.
You can also set a passcode on the Apple Watch. Select Settings > Passcode, then choose Turn Passcode On and enter a custom code. As a general rule, use a different passcode than the one you use with your iPhone. This will add an additional layer of security to the mix.
2. Activate Lost Mode.
Another handy security feature that will keep your data safe is Lost Mode. If you activate Lost Mode, the watch face will display a short custom message and the number to call if it’s found. That can be helpful in situations where you aren’t sure whether the watch was lost or stolen.
It will also disable Apple Pay, which is important if you’ve lost your watch and don’t want your account information stolen or credit cards used by someone else. This feature can be activated from your iPhone.
- Open the Settings app on your iPhone
- Select your name
- Tap Find My and select your Apple Watch
- Tap Activate in the Mark As Lost section
- Tap Continue
- Enter a phone number where you can be reached, and then tap Next
- Enter a message that you want to show on the watch screen
- Tap Activate
3. Activate the Erase Data feature.
You can also activate Erase Data mode, which will let you remotely wipe your data if your Apple Watch is misplaced or stolen. Once Erase Mode is activated, the watch will erase the data it contains if someone is trying to access your watch with the wrong passcode repeatedly.
After the person enters an incorrect passcode six times, an automatic one-minute delay will go into effect. After 10 incorrect attempts with the wrong password, the watch will automatically erase its data.
To activate Erase Data:
- Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone
- Tap My Watch
- Go to General > Reset
- Tap Erase Apple Watch Content and Settings
4. Use Activation Lock.
Another nifty feature is Activation Lock, which blocks other people from activating your watch without your permission. This is especially handy if you have wiped your watch clean, giving thieves a blank slate to work with.
Even if you erase your device remotely, Activation Lock will continue to deter anyone from reactivating your device without your permission.
To turn on Activation Lock:
- Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone
- Tap the My Watch tab, and then tap your watch name at the top of the screen
- Tap the Info button
- If you see Find My Apple Watch, then Activation Lock is on
Related: Comparing the latest smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and Fossil
It wouldn’t be unheard of for Fitbit users’ data to be compromised. Millions of FitBit users have already had their account information exposed by cybercriminals. The hack occurred earlier this year, and that’s not the only risk.
You’re also at risk of losing personal information if your Fitbit is stolen or lost. You can use your Fitbit Pay app just like you would any other digital wallet, and if you leave your device open to criminals, they can access that info by getting their hands on your device.
You need to secure your Fitbit and your data to ensure this won’t happen. To keep issues like this from occurring, you should:
1. Use the device lock.
To help keep your Fitbit device secure, turn on the device lock in the Fitbit app. Once you do this, you’ll be prompted to enter a personal 4-digit PIN code to unlock your device. If you’ve set up Fitbit Pay, you’ve already got a PIN code to unlock your Fitbit.
- In the Fitbit app, tap the Today tab > your profile picture > your device image
- Tap Device Lock
- Select the option to set a 4-digit PIN code
2. Customize your privacy settings.
If you use Fitbit, you have a profile page, and the social aspect of your profile lets your friends see what you’re sharing. The problem is, it’s not necessarily limited to your friends. Anyone with a Fitbit account can see what you’re sharing if they’re looking specifically for you.
To stop that from happening, you can customize what’s visible on your profile. To do this, open the app, tap your avatar on the top left, and then tap Privacy. From there, you can choose what’s public and what’s private.
3. Limit apps that can access your data.
Another concern relates to data. Google bought Fitbit and there were immediate concerns about what Google would be doing with all of the data your Fitbit collects. But Google isn’t the only potential problem — apps are too.
To limit the apps that can access your data, go to the Fitbit app and tap your avatar. Tap Privacy and Manage data. From there, tap Manage third-party apps and disconnect anything that’s accessing health and fitness data.
You’ll need to be concerned about the same types of issues with your Samsung smartwatch. If your watch is stolen or misplaced without security measures in place, you’re giving someone else access to your data. You’re also risking them accessing your payment information if you’re using Samsung Pay, a digital wallet like Google Pay or Apple Pay.
To avoid these types of issues:
1. Set a security lock.
When you set a screen lock, your watch will lock itself after a certain amount of time, and you’ll need to enter a PIN or pattern to unlock it.
Often, the biggest security concern for a business is whether company data on a mobile device is secure or not. Of course, one of the biggest risks to data security is a lost or stolen device, which becomes much less likely to occur with smartwatches that are strapped onto employees’ wrists at all times and therefore not as easy to lose or forget.
From Settings, swipe to and tap Security. Tap Lock or Gear lock and then tap Type. You can select from the following lock types:
- Pattern: Set a pattern to draw on the screen to unlock your watch. This provides a medium security level.
- PIN: Set a four-digit PIN to unlock your watch. This provides a medium to high-security level.
- None: No lock screen will be set. This provides no security.
Related: The 5 best smartwatches you can buy right now
2. Remotely lock or wipe Samsung Pay.
You can also remotely lock or wipe Samsung Pay. This lets you secure your payment account in your Samsung watch so no one else can access it.
To remotely lock or wipe Samsung pay:
- In your computer’s web browser, navigate to https://findmymobile.samsung.com
- Enter your Samsung account information and click Sign In
- Click Lock Samsung Pay in the sidebar
- Conversely, you can also click Wipe Samsung Pay in the sidebar to wipe the account
- Click Lock Samsung Pay
- Note: To wipe Samsung Pay, enter your Samsung account password and click Wipe Samsung Pay
- If Samsung Pay was successfully locked, a checkmark will appear with the “This function has been executed successfully” message
- Or, if successful at wiping Samsung Pay, your payment cards along with any payment information will be removed from Samsung Pay
- Click Next to complete the steps
Smartwatches are a great way to track your health and so much more. Now that you know how to keep them secure, you can wear one with confidence.