Garmin down: why the outage, is it to do with ransomware and what can you do? Garmin outage

There's nothing worse than grabbing a personal best in a run or cycle and then finding out you can't brag about it to the world. 

OK, there are plenty of things worse – and actually, that kind of behavior probably isn't healthy – but for those of us in denial, the recent Garmin outage is something that's causing a lot of consternation.

Since July 23, the fitness brand has been suffering from a lack of connectivity, which was originally down to 'maintenance'. This meant that anyone trying to upload a run, swim, cycle, yoga session or any kind of fitness workout to the Garmin Connect service was unable to do so.

Initially, Garmin was staying quiet, only sending a single Tweet:

TechRadar has spoken to the brand and while it hasn’t shared any further details, there is a new statement from Garmin that sheds a little more light.

”Garmin is currently experiencing an outage that affects Garmin services including Garmin Connect and Garmin Pilot. As a result of the outage, some features and services across these platforms are unavailable to customers. Additionally, our product support call centers are affected by the outage and as a result, we are currently unable to receive any calls, emails or online chats. 

We are working to restore our systems as quickly as possible and apologize for the inconvenience. Additional updates will be provided as they become available.”

The brand has since spoken out and directed TechRadar to a short Q&A on how Garmin Connect being down has not affected user data – with the main response to user data being impacted offering the most solace to users:

“Garmin has no indication that this outage has affected your data, including activity, payment or other personal information.”

We’ll update this article as and when new information becomes available. 

What's actually happening?

While maintenance is often scheduled for quiet hours to allow the company to update key services, an outage of this length is almost certainly something much more in-depth – and a report from ZDNet is stating that "several Garmin employees took to social media to share details about the attack, all calling it a ransomware attack".

BleepingComputer is claiming that first-hand sources with knowledge of the matter have confirmed this is a ransomware attack, locking parts of the Garmin system.

The same site is now giving a lot more detail on the reported ransomware attack: according to screenshots allegedly sourced from Garmin employees, files are being locked under the title ‘GarminWasted’, and ransom amounts are being demanded for unlocking each.

Whether Garmin will pay this amount – the implications of paying ransomware is fiercely debated by law enforcement agencies across the world – is yet to be seen. There’s also the fact that 33 percent of organisations don’t get their files back, according to research by Trend Micro.

What’s not been confirmed is whether Garmin has backup systems that it can migrate to should these reports be true. If a company is infected with ransomware, the best action is to use a copy of the servers in another location and shut down the infected system.

According to the BleepingComputer source above, Garmin shut down its devices in a data center to prevent them being encrypted. However, it’s important to note that Garmin has not confirmed ransomware are the reason for the outage, and the Connect app saying "Sorry, we're down for maintenance. Check back shortly."

The same article from ZDNet cites a report from Taiwanese technology site iThome, which is claiming a memo has been sent to Garmin's Taiwanese production facilities saying that 'servers and databases' were attacked, and that production lines were being shut down for two days for maintenance.

Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical Edition

Users are now finding their devices are unable to process any activity information while the cloud connection is broken. (Image credit: Garmin)

Pilot software and navigation database, flyGarmin, used for Garmin navigational systems has experienced an outage and is reportedly grounding some planes – the statement on flyGarmin's status page says:

"We are currently experiencing an outage that affects flyGarmin and as a result, the flyGarmin website and mobile app are down at this time. This outage also affects our call centers, and we are currently unavailable to receive any emails or chats, but do have limited availability for calls. We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and apologize for this inconvenience."

However, the regular updates here suggest that this service is slowly returning, with flyGarmin moving from 'down' to 'operational' and other functions also coming back online. Whether this is related to the Garmin Connect outage remains to be seen, as the lockdown of the service continues.

Readers have contacted TechRadar with their experiences, with one user telling us: “Garmin Golf is down, the app cannot be used on a smart phone, so no maps or golf GPS and you cannot use the golf GPS app on a watch because it cannot connect to Connect.”

While Garmin isn't confirming the reason behind the outage, which means it's still speculation that this issue is because of nefarious intentions, there's clearly an issue that the company is working to deal with as the saga shows no sign of abating after multiple days of issues.

Garmin Connect

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The issues are being seen in wider locations too. Strava's data shows that there's been no upload activity to the site from Garmin Connect since July 23 – with overall Strava uploads down by over a third in that time, meaning that this issue is affecting third party services as well.

We've contacted Garmin for a statement, and will update this piece if we get any more information.

Is my data safe?

Some sites are speculating that historical data is missing from the Connect database, which is understandably leading to worries that user data has been compromised.

However, there has been no suggestion at this point that sensitive information has been taken by hackers – Garmin has confirmed that there’s no ‘indication’ of the outage affecting data, including activity, payment or personal information.

A recent report from TechCrunch, which has spoken to two sources it claims have ‘direct knowledge of the incident’, says that this attack was caused by WastedLocker ransomware. The report states that this ransomware, according to security researchers Malwarebytes, does not appear to be able to steal or pull data from locked files.

This means that if Garmin has backed up its data then it should be able to get systems back online without worry of data being stolen – however, this has yet to be confirmed by Garmin.

We'll update this piece if we find any more information if any data – whether it's profiles or physiological – has been compromised.

In less worrying thoughts, your day-to-day data is going to be saved on your watch – whether that's thinking about your body battery, stress levels or your daily step counts – seeing that data when the service returns will still be possible.

When the service returns, all this data will be brought back into the Connect app so you'll be able to see everything that's happened physiologically.

But how can I upload to Strava?

If you're desperate to get your data from your watch onto Strava or similar platforms (in order to get the recognition for your Friday run to the shops and back… or perhaps a 200 mile cycle ride) then you can still do this manually.

You'll need to get the cable that you use to charge your device and plug it into your computer. For most devices, it will show up as an accessible drive (in the case of Windows) or in Finder (for Macs).

Open up the device, click the 'Garmin' folder and head to 'Activity'. In here, you'll find your fitness workouts as '.FIT' files – they may be listed from oldest to newest, so look for one with a recent date and save that to your desktop.

(If you have a newer watch that has music storage capabilities, it'll show as a 'primary' device. Click this, and then follow the same options above.)

Garmin Connect

The file explorer in Windows (Image credit: TechRadar)

Once you've got your relevant .FIT files, head to Strava.com on your browser, log in and hit the '+' icon in the top right-hand corner. Select 'Upload activity' and then choose 'File upload on the left-hand side of the next screen.

From here, simply navigate to your desktop (or Garmin watch directly if you're feeling fancy and decided not to copy the files across) and click the correct files. If they're new activities (as in, you didn't accidentally already upload them) then they'll process, and you can fill in the information on your workout as normal.

Then watch as the kudos roll in, as most of your friends will be scratching their heads as to how to get their runs online.

(If you want more depth on how to upload your runs for other devices, including discussions on how to get your runs off older, ANT+-enabled devices, DC Rainmaker has an excellent guide to check out).

What's the internet saying?

Whenever a large company is having issues, or a service many rely on, goes down, Twitter is invariably flooded with hot takes and comedy 'sideways looks' at the issue – and this is no different:

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #techradar https://www.techradar.com/news/garmin-down-why-the-outage-is-it-to-do-with-ransomware-and-what-can-you-do