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Could wearing a fitness tracker or smartwatch make it easier for scammers to exploit your private PIN? That’s the conclusion of a shocking new study released this month.

In the paper, “Friend or Foe?: Your Wearable Devices Reveal Your Personal Pin,” researchers from Binghamton University and the Stevens Institute of Technology describe how, with the help of a computer algorithm, they used data collected by these devices to crack passwords, which they managed to do with 80% accuracy on the first try and more than 90% accuracy after three tries.

Over 11 months, the researchers performed 5,000 key-entry tests on three key-based security systems, including an ATM, while 20 adults wore a variety of devices, such as activity trackers and smartwatches.

Read More: 3 Dumb Things You’re Doing with Email

Typically, a hacker would need to install a video camera or fake keypad in order to uncover personal information, the researchers wrote.However, they found wearable devices “can be exploited to discriminate mm-level distances and directions of the user’s fine-grained hand movements, which enable attackers to reproduce the trajectories of the user’s hand and further to recover the secret key entries.” Put in layman’s terms: The hackers could record information about your hand movements to reproduce the seemingly-secret entries.

Read More: What You Need to Know About Identity Theft

The researchers added, “our system confirms the possibility of using embedded sensors in wearable devices, i.e., accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers, to derive the moving distance of the user’s hand between consecutive key entries regardless of the pose of the hand.” So, infecting your device with malware or intercepting the Bluetooth connection that syncs your watch to your phone wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

Keeping Your Information Safe

Though it’s too soon to tell how this will impact everyday wearers — manufacturers have yet to respond to the study — it’s yet another reason to be vigilant about how and where you share your finances, especially online. Short of using your device-free hand to code in any passwords, it’s a good idea to follow best online safety practices, which include only shopping on encrypted sites, avoiding clicking on phony emails and doing your best to keep your passwords to yourself.

Read More: How Do I Dispute an Error on my Credit Report?

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your accounts for common signs of fraud. This can include unfamiliar addresses, sudden drops in your credit score and mysterious accounts opening up in your name.

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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