Nike + iPod Kit = Security Threat?

Dennis Faas's picture

Oops! The new product from Apple and Nike seems to do more than monitor athletes' workout information. As two University of Washington researchers discovered, the Nike + iPod Sport Kit can be harmful to the privacy and security of those who use it.

The Nike + iPod Sport Kit is comprised of two parts: a chip which resides inside the running shoe and a receiver which attaches to an iPod. The receiver stores information obtained from the chip, and after a workout, users can upload information such as distance travelled and speed. (Source:

Sounds like a great idea, and perhaps it is -- except for one not-so-minor detail.

The information transmitted from the shoe can be intercepted from 60 feet away, revealing your location. The two University of Washington researchers, Scott Saponas and Yoshi Kohno, found a security flaw that enables people to watch the whereabouts of a user in real time. The researchers warn that this flaw could become a tool for stalkers and burglars. (Source:

Saponas and Kohno claim that tracking someone with a Nike + iPod device is neither difficult nor expensive. The duo has built several mechanisms that can intercept information, including a Windows XP-based device, a Gumstix-based device, and a third generation iPod. (Source:

While the Nike + iPod device does come with an On/Off button, the device is sold turned on. Further, it might not be so presumptuous to assume that most users would not bother to turn it off. (Source:

Now that the security threat has been brought to everyone's attention, two questions remain. First of all, what will Apple do to address this problem? And could it have been prevented in the first place?

The first question remains unanswered; both Nike and Apple have not yet commented on the findings. As for the second question, Saponas and Kohno believe that the answer is "yes." They assert that "there are simple cryptographic technique[s] that the Nike+iPod designers could have used to improve the privacy-preserving properties of the Nike+iPod Sport Kit." (Source:

Hopefully Apple will come out from behind the curtains and address the problem. In the meantime, you may want to bring that old-fashioned pedometer on your next jog.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet