Biden's Peloton could pose cyber security risk in White House, experts warn

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Michael Cogley
·4 min read
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Peloton - Peloton
Peloton - Peloton

Joe Biden’s Peloton exercise bike could pose a cyber-security risk should he bring it with him to the White House, experts have warned.

The high-end connected workout machine has cameras, microphones, and a tablet, that allow riders to record live video of themselves taking part in exercise classes. The bikes, which start at £1,750, also display leaderboards where users’ performance is ranked against others.

The Peloton has formed a crucial part of Mr Biden’s fitness regime. The 78-year-old president-elect and Jill Biden, his wife, negotiate each morning over who gets to use the bike first, according to the New York Times.

Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist at ESET, said that bringing anything into the White House with an IP address posed a “substantial risk” especially one with microphones and cameras.

“Sophisticated threat actors will be equipped with the knowledge to bypass any inbuilt firewall, but no doubt the White House security team will be aware of these threats and go to the lengths necessary to mitigate these,”he said.

“The simplest way would be to remove the functionality which makes the Peloton bike special. But then, of course, you would then just be riding a normal exercise bike."

Ken Munro, a consultant at cyber security firm Pen Test Partners, said the tablet installed on the bike could pose security headaches.

“Typically the tablets on these machines will be Android based and Android, if not set up correctly, can cause a bunch of issues,” he said.

“It’s going to have cameras, microphones, Bluetooth, wireless, all these interfaces that if they’re not set up correctly, or the manufacturer hasn’t done it right, there could be an opportunity for hackers.”

Mr Munro said Peloton was among the “most-responsible” smart fitness device companies due to their “vulnerability disclosure programme”, which allows researchers to report any security issues back to the company.

He also said that the US Secret Service would be “all over this, stripping out all of the extra functionality”.

Richard Hughes, head of technical cyber security at A&O IT, said the vulnerabilities of connected devices was a "very real issue".

"We can be sure that cyber-security risks will have been considered for any device installed in the White House and Peloton bikes will be no exception." he said.

"In the case of Joe Biden's Peloton, the obvious risks are that it has a microphone and camera that could - if a vulnerability was found and exploited - be used to eavesdrop and possibly even a heart rate monitor that could spark all sorts of issues if it were to identify the president had a heart condition."

Peloton had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.

President Biden is not the first White House resident to face having his technology changed or stripped out by security advisers. President Donald Trump was known to use his personal Android smartphone for Tweeting, before he was pressed into using an iPhone vetted by the security service.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, used a hardened iPad and an encrypted BlackBerry phone.

Barack and Michelle Obama are both said to be regular users of Pelotons. Ms Obama is said to own a modified bike without a camera or microphone, according to The Verge. This could pave the way for Mr Biden's security detail to possibly strip the bike of its risky features, or even tap Peloton to build a custom model, the technology magazine speculated.

Peloton - Simon Walker
Peloton - Simon Walker

The Bidens are not the only high-profile political figures that have grown fond of the exercise bikes. Barack and Michelle Obama are both said to be regular users of the service, while in the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed last year that he too likes to start the day with a spin.

The exercise bike company has reported rapid growth through the pandemic as lockdowns shuttered gyms and put a stop to amateur sports. In November, Jill Woodworth, Peloton’s chief financial officer, said the lockdowns had had a “significant positive impact on sales”.

Throughout 2020 Pelton’s share price surged by 395pc. The company is now valued at around $43bn (£30bn).​