Garmin‘s products have been knocked offline by one of the most significant technical problems in recent history.
Much of the detail about the outage is still unknown: there is no official account of how it happened, and Garmin has not said when full service will be restored.
But here’s everything that we do know about the still ongoing problems.
What is broken?
Just about everything. At the beginning of the outage, just about everything Garmin offer was broken: from sports wearables to aviation tools for pilots, and from its retail stores to its customer service call centres.
Over time, those features have been gradually restored. The major breakthrough appeared to arrive overnight from Sunday into Monday, with many people waking up on Monday morning to find that their devices had synced and their activities had finally ended up on services like Strava.
At the time of publication, basic functions have been fixed, but they are doing a lot more slowly, unreliably and intermittently than they did before. Garmin’s status page offers the most authoritative account of what is working, and includes information on the specific parts of particular features that are not working, and so is worth checking before you come to rely on something that might actually still not be restored.
How did it happen?
It is still entirely unclear. Garmin is still referring to the problems only as an “outage”, and has given very little explanation of what actually took its services offline.
Rumours have suggested that Garmin was hit by a ransomware attack – when hackers install software onto computer systems that lock them down until victims pay a “ransom” to . But the company is yet to comment either way on those reports, and there has been no public, independent confirmation that is what happened.
Laws require that any kind of breach is disclosed to the public as quickly as possible, and any crime such as a cyber attack would be dealt with by public authorities, meaning that if any major hack – rather than a technical problem – was behind the problems, that will probably be revealed in good time. On the other hand, the company may keep the details of the hack under wraps in the immediate future, as it continues to deal with any knock-on effects.
Is my data safe?
There are two ways that a problem of this kind could leave your data unsafe: the danger of it getting lost, and the danger of it getting stolen. Garmin has said that it has “no indication” that either are the case.
As services have come back online, it does appear that the former is true. Data that was synced to Garmin’s servers before the outage is still there, and data that has been gathered while the servers have been down has been able to sync.
It is impossible to know for absolutely certain whether the latter is the case. No data has been made publicly available, however, and there is no obvious reason to doubt Garmin’s claim that information has been secured.
What should I do?
The advice is largely to carry on as normal: Garmin has assured users that their information should be safe on their devices if it is not synced, and that they can keep collecting it. Most devices should work mostly as normal to track activities and health data, even if that is not immediately being pushed up the cloud, and even if they might not receive updates the other way.
It is worth checking Garmin’s status page to see what is working before you come to rely on any particular feature. For instance, at the time of publication it is possible to create routes within Garmin’s web or mobile app, but not to send them to your device after they are finished – which may end up being frustrated if you went to the effort of plotting out a course before you realised.
Likewise, there have been some reports of devices – particularly Garmin’s Fenix smartwatches – failing to accurately record distance or save properly when an activity is over. That appears to be fixed by deleting old activities, according to users who have experienced it, which should not have any significant impact
If you want to reliably get your activities off your device in the meantime, or get new courses onto it, both can be done manually, by plugging your device into the computer. Instructions for how to do so can be found here.
Some people have also suggested that Garmin users should change their passwords on other sites, if they were re-used to sign into other services, since there is a chance that passwords have been stolen. While there’s been no clear evidence of a breach, and Garmin has said it has no evidence that data has been stolen, keeping passwords different across sites and changing them regularly is simply good practice with no real downsides, so it may be helpful to do so all the same.
When will Garmin start working properly again?
There is no way to know for sure. Garmin is yet to share information on how its systems are coming back online, or how long it might take.
It does appear that the switch-on is being somewhat staggered, with some systems working and others still not.
Strava has said that the backlog will mean that activities could take up to a week before they are fully synced, however. There may be a similar delay with Garmin’s services, as they cope with the increased traffic of having multiple days’ data all uploaded at once.