Garmin Connect Down For the Count

by Jeff Whitfield on | 0 Comments

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Bicycle carcass
Bicycle carcass

In the past year, I've been a pretty active critic of Garmin. Not only have I been critical of the Edge 830 but also critical of Garmin Connect itself.

So when news broke that Garmin Connect was down on one of the DC Rainmaker posts I've been following. What makes this news especially damaging is the fact that so many Garmin devices (from bike computer, watches, and more) are heavily reliant on Garmin Connect. So much so that you can't even transfer anything without it. 

That effectively means that, after completing a workout, you can't sync it till Garmin Connect goes back up...which totally sucks! Even the Wahoo Companion app isn't like that. If Wahoo's services go down, sure, you won't be able to sync with Wahoo's servers...but you can still sync with other server and/or export the results of a workout through the app. That doesn't appear to be the case with Garmin Connect.

According to ZDnet, the problem is due to some sort of ransomware attack on the Garmin network itself. This could very well end up being a multi-day thing so...yeah, Garmin users are SOL at the moment. 

Till then, the only solution will be to connect your device via USB, transfer the FIT file of your workout to your computer, and then manually sync it with other services.  In fact, DC Rainmaker just posted a page on how to upload your Garmin workout during the outage.

More reports are pouring in from other sources including Canadian Cycling Magazine and CyclingTips. The consistent thing said in both reports is that Garmin has yet to say when services will resume. One commenter on the CyclingTips website suggested that users change their passwords for Strava or any other third-party services that are attached to their Garmin account. Probably good advice.

I read a comment on the DC Rainmaker site that I think really hits home on what it is about the downtime of Garmin services that makes it so bad. If anything, it highlights a serious flaw in the design of services like Garmin Connect: the over-reliance on cloud services. Many other products similar to the ones Garmin sells don't require you to connect to their servers to use their products. 

For instance, a Wahoo ELEMNT bike computer does require the use of the ELEMNT Companion app. But it doesn't require you to connect to Wahoo's networks to use it. If Wahoo's servers go down then all it means is that your ride data isn't synced to their servers. You can still sync to Strava, RideWithGPS, Dropbox, or whatever other cloud services that the ELEMNT Companion app is compatible with.

This is the major flaw with Garmin Connect: the inability to sync with third-party services without being directly connected to Garmin's networks. It's a huge flaw in the design of their products that is now being highlighted due to their networks being down. That's why so many customers are likely to be frustrated by the downtime of Garmin services.

This one graphic from the Strava Status page is very revealing:

Strava Status: Uploads from Garmin Connect flatline
Strava Status: Uploads from Garmin Connect flatline

Basically, on July 23, uploads from Garmin Connect flatlined and overall uploads to Strava were practically cut in half. That should tell you just how much of an impact Garmin has on the industry. They nearly have 50% of the market.

Update

July 24, 2020 9:00am (Day 1)

Checked this morning. Garmin Connect is still down. Man...this isn't looking good at all. My question is this: Did Garmin not have backups? Why can't they just wipe the servers, rebuild them, restore the code, restore the user data, and bring it all backup? My thinking is that this would take no longer than half a day to complete. I'll admit, I don't know anything about this ransomware or how it works...so I might just be talking out my butt. :P

10:20am

Cycling Weekly pointed out how Stava usage has dropped since the Garmin outage. Looks like a drop of nearly 50%, which makes sense when you consider that Garmin devices dominate the marketplace.

With this outage, trust in Garmin will likely wane, as will their dominance in the marketplace. No doubt that sales from Wahoo, Stages, and others will go up.

3:36pm

Still down. Man...how do you bounce back from something like this? Yikes!

7:09

I think we have reached the 24-hour mark of downtime. Will continue to keep tabs on this.

July 25, 2020 9:27am (Day 2)

According to comments on the DC Rainmaker post that talks about this, it's actually been 48 hours since the site has been down.

BleepingComputer reports that the outage was caused by a WastedLocker ransomware attack, which has brought down multiple Garmin services including Garmin Connect, Garmin Explore, Garmin inReach, and flyGarmin. This information apparently came from an anonymous Garmin employee. If true, to be fair, this sort of attack could happen to any computer. I'm just not sure if Garmin's response is good and if they could have been better prepared for it.

8:53pm

BleepingComputer has updated their story to say that, according to one of their sources, the attackers are demanding $10 million dollars. The problem is that paying the ransom would likely break U.S. sanctions against Evil Corp, the group behind the ransom attack.

Based on what I'm reading about the WastedLocker ransomware, it's a highly targeted attack that seems to effect Windows-based systems. Because of how it attacks and encrypts files, without some sort of roll-back or offsite backups, recovering from it is super difficult.

July 26, 2020 11:05am (Day 3)

VeloNews reports that Garmin also shutdown their production lines in order to further deal with the ransomware. Makes sense considering that new customers won't be able to utilize their services. Plus, leadership won't be able to manage both the production lines and this ransomware at the same time. This is likely to have a rather huge impact on Garmin for sure.

July 27, 2020 4:14pm (Day 4)

The Garmin Connect Status page shows that services are starting to resume. It'll take them a little while to fully recover since so many people will likely be uploading a few days worth of rides at one time. The Strava Status page shows that syncs from Garmin Connect late last night. So, yeah, things are finally getting back to normal...sort of.

It's still not clear how much of an impact this will have on Garmin. Even though it was only four days of downtime, the average customer may have lost trust in Garmin's ability to maintain their services. Plus, as I mentioned above, there's the aspect of how Garmin Connect itself is designed. With such a reliance on cloud services to sync data to third-parties, this might be the one event that breaks the proverbial camel's back.



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