Smartwatches are vulnerable to hackers, say researchers who used a homegrown app on a Samsung Gear Live smart watch to guess what a user was typing through data 'leaks' produced by the motion sensors on the device.
The project, called Motion Leaks through Smartwatch Sensors, or MoLe, has privacy implications, as an app that is camouflaged as a pedometer, for example, could gather data from emails, search queries and other confidential documents, said researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"Sensor data from wearable devices will clearly be a double-edged sword," said Romit Roy Choudhury, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois.
"While the device's contact to the human body will offer invaluable insights into human health and context, it will also make way for deeper violation into human privacy. The core challenge is in characterising what can or cannot be inferred from sensor data and the MoLe project is one example along this direction," he said.
The app uses an accelerometer and gyroscope to track the micro-motion of keystrokes as a wearer types on a keyboard.
While a Samsung watch was used in this project, the researchers believe that any wearable device that uses motion sensors - from the Apple Watch to Fitbit - could be vulnerable as well.