Garmin Forerunner
Garmin Forerunner 35. Photo Jay Caboz
  • Garmin was hit by hackers, who paralysed its popular Garmin Connect platform as well as customer communication channels.
  • Many South Africans may still not be able to upload their workout data to the platform. 
  • But they may not have to worry that their exercise over the past week was in vain - they should still earn Vitality points. 
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Some South Africans who closely track their fitness goals (and Vitality points) may have had an unsettling couple of days after Garmin was hit by a global outage.

The US company, a top seller of activity trackers and smart-watches in South Africa, was the victim of hackers on Thursday. The company acknowledged that “a cyber attack encrypted some of our systems”, but did not confirm other reports that ransomware was used.

The BBC and TechCrunch have since reported that Garmin was hit by a new type of ransomware called WastedLocker. Cybersecurity software company Malwarebytes reports that WastedLocker is commonly used by a malware exploitation gang called Evil Corp, and that the ransomware is usually targeted at specific organisations.

Last year, a ransomware attack paralysed Johannesburg agency City Power’s systemswhile the City of Johannesburg itself was hit by a group who called themselves the Shadow Kill Hackers demanding a ransom payment in bitcoin. Shortly thereafter, hackers launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on the local banks, flooding them with fake traffic. The criminals also demanded a ransom.

The hackers paralysed many of Garmin’s online services - including website functions, customer support, apps, and company communications. By Tuesday, the lines to its Johannesburg office were still down.

READ | Hackers on the dark web love South Africa - here's why we suffer 577 attacks per hour

Its popular Garmin Connect platform is still not fully functional.

South African Garmin wearers use the app to upload their workout data. Garmin Connect can be synced to Discovery’s Vitality programme, and wearers can earn points if they record a workout of at least 30 minutes and their average heart rate was at least 60% of their “age-related maximum heart rate” for the entire workout. 

But due to the outage, many Garmin wearers have not been able to upload their data, or earn points from their workouts.

A Vitality spokesperson says that the company is “actively monitoring the situation with Garmin” and that member workouts will sync with Vitality as soon as Garmin Connect is back online.

For its part, Garmin expects that all activity data will remained stored on devices until Garmin Connect is accessible again. “We anticipate that all data will appear in Garmin Connect once the user syncs their device.”

According to the Vitality spokesperson, some South Africans have already been able to sync their devices to Garmin Connect.

The deadline to upload a week’s worth of activity for Vitality points is usually Tuesday midnight, but Vitality says that late entries will still be processed.

Garmin said in a statement that there is no indication that any customer data, including payment information from Garmin Pay, was stolen.

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