Explained: Why Joe Biden’s exercise bike set off security chatter

The company, and its exercise bike in particular, have a cult following across the United States.

In the weeks leading up to US President Joe Biden’s swearing-in, cybersecurity experts examined whether his Peloton bike — a piece of exercise equipment — would be permitted inside the White House. They eventually concluded the bike was safe, according to media reports from the US.

So, what is the Peloton bike?

Made by the Peloton company, it is an Internet-connected, stationary, indoor cycling bike with cameras, microphones and tablets attached, so its riders can livestream fitness classes and communicate with one another. Priced at upward of $2,500 (around Rs 1.8 lakh), it is made of carbon steel and aluminium and weighs around 60 kg. Users are also required to pay $39 (around Rs 2,895) per month for Peloton’s live and on-demand classes.

Apart from Biden, revealed on his podcast that he was an active user of the Peloton bike and had purchased one during the lockdown to stay active, the Obamas and actress Kate Hudson are also fans of the bike. Today, the company, and its exercise bike in particular, have a cult following across the United States.

Why did it come under security scrutiny?

The Peloton tablet is connected to the Internet and comes fitted with cameras and microphones that allow riders to hear and see each other if they so choose. A report by Popular Mechanics magazine warned that the bike could be seen by the Secret Service as a security threat, as hackers could potentially access Biden and the White House through the bike.

A disclaimer on the Peloton site reads: “At Peloton, we consider the security of our systems and the best interest of our members a top priority. However, no matter how much effort we put into system security, there can still be vulnerabilities present. Because of this we are looking to the security community to help us meet this top priority through programs like responsible disclosure.”

So, will Biden’s Peloton bike be permitted in the White House?

Cybersecurity experts have reportedly said that if Biden really wants to bring his Peloton bike to the White House, he can. But it will have to be massively stripped down by the Secret Service and National Security Agency (NSA) first.

“… really, cybersecurity experts say, If Biden wants his bike, he can surely have it, though it might bear little resemblance to the off-the-assembly-line version after the Secret Service and the National Security Agency are finished with it,” The New York Times reported.

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