Back in the day, somewhere in mid-20th century time, people thought that in the year 2000 we would be driving flying cars. Jet packs would be the norm. You know, cool stuff like that. That vision… didn’t quite happen, but that doesn’t mean technology hasn’t made giant leaps. We have little computers in our pockets that can access practically any information in the world. We can order stuff offline and have it shipped to us day-of. We can also work out on a trendy smart bike at home, so long as someone doesn’t hack it, causing a national security threat that tugs at the somewhat frayed seams of our ever-fragile democracy.
That seems to be the predicament that President-elect Joe Biden and his famed Peloton bike currently face as he makes his transition into the White House next week. As CNN reports, “Past presidents’ high-tech gadgets have typically required security vetting and retrofitting—especially when they connect to the internet or cell networks.” While that has worked in the past with things like the golf simulator Trump had installed, the Peloton may prove to be a bit trickier.
Speaking with Popular Mechanics, Max Kilger, Ph.D., director of the Data Analytics Program and associate professor in practice at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said, “If you really want that Peloton to be secure, you yank out the camera, you yank out the microphone, and you yank out the networking equipment.” For those keeping score, that basically leaves you with one of these bad boys:
We love a retro look. But that also means Biden’s favorite instructor won’t be able to inspire him with invasively personal sentiments like this one:
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Jokes aside, even Peloton has admitted that to a certain extent, there’s only so much you can do when it comes to the bike’s security vulnerabilities. It says, “No matter how much effort we put into system security, there can still be vulnerabilities present.” If you’re unfamiliar with Peloton, on top of needing an internet connection, its bikes are equipped with cameras and microphones. That sends up all types of red flags for Biden’s White House, especially considering America’s widespread issue with hacking in recent years (and months).
As Kilger explained to Popular Mechanics, the issue has less to do with hacking Biden’s workout machine and more to do with the additional components that connect to it. Since Peloton has the ability to connect to devices like, say, an Apple Watch, a hacker who successfully gets access to a Peloton bike could also have access to Biden’s connected devices. For what it’s worth, that’s not just a Biden-issue. Like any smart, internet-of-things device with cameras and microphones, there is a security threat. Just, you know, an FYI for the next time you’re jamming out on your smart bike.
The Secret Service and the White House have strategies to work around issues like this—presumably, ways to equip the bike (albeit without some of its key features) so it’s less connected but still functional. Biden just might not be allowed to interact with his fellow riders anymore. That’s another hill he’s going to have to push through.
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