Visible to the public Uncovering Privacy Leakage in BLE Network Traffic of Wearable Fitness Trackers

TitleUncovering Privacy Leakage in BLE Network Traffic of Wearable Fitness Trackers
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsDas, Aveek K., Pathak, Parth H., Chuah, Chen-Nee, Mohapatra, Prasant
Conference NameProceedings of the 17th International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications
Conference LocationNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number978-1-4503-4145-5
Keywordsbluetooth low energy, bluetooth security, composability, fitness trackers, Human Behavior, privacy, pubcrawl, Resiliency, wearables, wearables security

There has been a tremendous increase in popularity and adoption of wearable fitness trackers. These fitness trackers predominantly use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for communicating and syncing the data with user's smartphone. This paper presents a measurement-driven study of possible privacy leakage from BLE communication between the fitness tracker and the smartphone. Using real BLE traffic traces collected in the wild and in controlled experiments, we show that majority of the fitness trackers use unchanged BLE address while advertising, making it feasible to track them. The BLE traffic of the fitness trackers is found to be correlated with the intensity of user's activity, making it possible for an eavesdropper to determine user's current activity (walking, sitting, idle or running) through BLE traffic analysis. Furthermore, we also demonstrate that the BLE traffic can represent user's gait which is known to be distinct from user to user. This makes it possible to identify a person (from a small group of users) based on the BLE traffic of her fitness tracker. As BLE-based wearable fitness trackers become widely adopted, our aim is to identify important privacy implications of their usage and discuss prevention strategies.

Citation Keydas_uncovering_2016