Garmin Admits Deliberate, Remote Device Control Abilities

garmin remotely deactivates devicesGarmin Can Now Brick Your Device REMOTELY

I was a bit shocked when I received an email from Garmin informing me that they would permanently deactivate my device (HRM-PRO) in 14 days. Although Garmin had every right to do so, as they had provided me with a free out-of-warranty replacement HRM-PRO Plus to address a common issue with the previous model’s broken retaining screws, I wasn’t aware that they had the ability to remotely ‘brick’ or disable devices.

I assume that the deactivation command will be sent through a sync on Garmin Connect, but I’m unsure how Garmin will accomplish this since the HRM-PRO was registered to a different account and they did not have its serial number, as far as I know. This approach does save the cost of returning a defective device that cannot be refurbished or repaired.

Perhaps “surprised” would be a better term to use, as I was not aware that Garmin could take this action.

While some people might find the Big Brother nature of this situation horrifying, I balanced my initial shock with an optimistic yen for a new feature.

Consider the scenario where you misplace or have your watch stolen, which is not uncommon since we sometimes leave our sports watches in various smelly bags or leave our Garmin Edge units on display in triathlon transition areas. It would be fantastic if we could report a lost or stolen watch or bike computer, not necessarily to retrieve the device, but to deter theft in the first place. Adding a feature that unlocks the device when found would also be beneficial, as well as the ability to remotely lock a device and display the owner’s information in the event of accidental loss.

When you’ve spent $500-$100 on a top-end Garmin watch or bike computer you might well expect such niceties to be added especially, of course, as the Apple Watch has long been able to d exactly what I am describing here.

Techy Bit

Clearly, the new screwless battery cover design for the HRM-PRO Plus was in response to the design flaw that I experienced. I wonder how many others of you were similarly affected? I guess you wouldn’t know for a year or so as that is roughly how long a CR2032 battery lasts.

Garmin HRM-PRO Plus – Garmin’s newest HRM boasts new battery cover locking mechanism



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26 thoughts on “Garmin Admits Deliberate, Remote Device Control Abilities

    1. i will but as i said above i cant see how they can do it for this HRM for the reasons given
      it would be easier for them to do it for a watch which *effectively* has to be regularly sync’d

      1. They can deliver firmware to the HRM-Pro series through the connection to a Garmin watch even if it is not paired to GCM over Bluetooth. It would definitely be possible to send a tiny kill instruction. It would probably be less deterministic than exactly 14 days.

      2. Thanks for the helpful article, I am in a similar position to this.

        What happened with the old HRM in the end? Was it rendered unusable?

  1. I will test my old one, got the same mail when mine was replaced.
    But it worked for shure longer than 14 days. It stopped working on an indoor ride, but this could easily been the case because it’s broken (wich is why it was replaced)

    1. It’s counting steps and transmitting HR in standalone mode, nothing deactivated.
      I thought it’s more for watches etc.

  2. My previous hrm-pro is supposed to be bricked for more than half a year now after I received a replacement one. My wife still use it and it works finely since then and a point of glue.

  3. Interesting that they claim there’s nothing they can do if you report a device stolen though.

    1. Because they cant trust you. People lie all the time, what stops you from actually selling the device and then report it as stolen?

      1. Lol why sell the watch and screw over the person who paid you money for no benefit to yourself? Yeah, I’m sure this is super common and specifically why Garmin’s customer service is mediocre.

      1. Indeed so, what? Sure, people lie, but the comment above doesn’t even make. In what way would selling a watch and then reporting stolen benefit the seller/scammer? Lol so I can give Garmin the serial number and create a huge evidence trail of this scam?

  4. Didn’t they ask you for a serial number or what account said defective HRM-Pro was registered to? If so, they have all the information they need to kill off the device whenever it pops up in their cloud sync, assuming they indeed have such a capability.

    Also, I wonder if “bricking” the device is really just messing up the firmware that would make it broken for a layman person, but could still be recovered by a pro?

    Had my HRM-Pro replaced out-of-warranty too some time ago, though I don’t remember any promises to deactivate anything. The replacement was done as a promotional order with $0 due.

  5. I had literally the exact same problem with HRM-PRO and they sent me the same email. I got the new HRM within 4 days, and so far they have not deactivated the old HRM

  6. Maybe it’s just a generic email that is sent in all scenarios. I find that far more plausible.

  7. Interesting – but I wonder if they can still do it of you stop using it with a Garmin device or the Connect App, by using it as a mere HRM for other apps or wearables.

    1. if they bricked it i guess they could.
      i wasn’t that much interested in what they can do to my hrmpro; more that they could do the same thing to watch- be it lost or stolen

  8. This all sounds good until we remember that Garmin was recently hacked and had to pay the ransom. So these features are just a potential treat to have your devices all bricked in the future if security fails again.

  9. I’ve not had problems with screws, but I’ve had about five HRMs with peeling leads. Garmin, to hear credit, have replaced every single one. I noticed said email after a recent strep replacement.

    For me, I hope they fix the lead issue because I’d really hate to replace a HRM out of pocket. I’d probably actually just try a different manufacturer.

  10. In mid December my Fenix 3 hr suddenly stopped charging. Think that it could be the USB charger, I went out and bought a new one. Took it to the Garmin repair centre to be told that they don’t repair the Fenix 3 model any more.

    There had been an update sometime before. Makes you wonder….

    Performed a force check. It showed “unable to charge’.

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