According to a recent alert from the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, someone is sending free smartwatches to military members across all American branches. But it’s not a “thank you for your service” situation — the report says that the devices may be loaded with malware, intended to steal personal info or snoop on conversations via built-in microphones.
The CID alert (spotted by PCMag and Defense News) doesn’t actually offer any evidence that the smartwatches are being targeted to specific users, hunting after either state secrets or the more usual personal phishing attempt. (Military members with security clearance aren’t even allowed to bring personal electronics past secure checkpoints, including phones and wearables, for obvious reasons.) A more obvious culprit is a scam called “brushing,” in which sellers will send unsolicited packages to addresses, faking that shipment as a verified “sale” on sites like Amazon, and then posting a fake review.
This scam is usually done with inexpensive, lightweight items (I’ve gotten baby wipes myself), but some knock-off smartwatches are now so cheap that it might just make sense. Apple Watch imitators are available for as little as $15, and even at such low prices there’s stiff competition for bargain hunters.
The Army page recommends that service members do not turn on the watches, just in case they’re rigged to scan local Wi-Fi or connected phones for info, and report the devices to their chain of command or directly to the CID tip portal.