We stand on the brink of a wearable device explosion. In much the same way smartphones and tablets grew exponentially in popularity, wearable technology is expected to see a similar swing in upward momentum. A recent report from ABI Research predicts that wearable device shipments will hit 485 million units by the year 2018. In other words, mobile devices better get ready for some new competition, because the initial surge is expected to really get underway this year. Major companies have already come out with some early wearable devices, and with the recent announcement of the Apple Watch, the market should get crowded soon. But like all new technology, with this major expansion come some significant security issues. Many experts have already expressed concern about wearable technology related to personal security and privacy. These same worries are now extending into the office, where wearable devices will likely make in-roads over the next few years.
Part of the concern stems from the rise of bring your own device (BYOD) policies among many companies. The idea is to allow employees to bring in personal smartphones and tablets for use at work. This can lead to added productivity and job satisfaction, but at the same time it introduces new security risks into a sensitive environment. These problems may be compounded as wearable technology becomes more of a common sight at the office.
Wearable devices are relatively new, which means companies are still experimenting and improving on their capabilities. Much like other mobile devices, apps are being developed to maximize the potential of each device, but an added emphasis on simplicity can often lead to less focus on security. Part of the appeal of a wearable device is the ease by which the consumer can access information on it, which usually means a simple press of a button or swipe of a finger. While that method is certainly convenient, it also means attackers may have an easier time hacking the device. Even more distressing is the fact that many wearable devices may not encrypt the data they store out of performance concerns. Granting easy access to unencrypted data is just asking for trouble.
All of these problems pose enough risk to the individual. Now imagine an entire office filled with dozens of workers with smart watches, Google Glasses, clothing sensors, and smart health bracelets. Many of the devices may not even be used expressly for work purposes, but that doesn't mean they don't pose a risk to businesses and network security. If a wearable device is targeted in a cyber attack, any malware that is the result of an attack can quickly and easily spread to other apps, devices, and the network itself. Put simply, if hackers gain access to one device, they may be able to spread their influence further and infiltrate much more. That's because for wearable devices to work, they need an almost constant connection to the internet, whether it's to a Wi-Fi network or through a Bluetooth connection. And since wearable devices are designed to transmit data over the internet, that information can get stolen or leaked, putting all other company data at risk.
Despite these serious risks, businesses aren't powerless when it comes to defending themselves from outside attacks. In many ways, wearable devices should be looked at as an extension of BYOD policy. If a company wants to be prepared for the threats that arise with wearable technology, it needs to establish firm rules and guidelines for how to handle new devices. Employees need to know what behavior is acceptable and what devices are considered appropriate to use in a work setting. Some devices may be banned altogether, sometimes from the security risks it introduces or to prevent so many devices from overloading the network. Businesses should also invest now in updating their network security infrastructure, effectively upgrading the systems before the tidal wave of wearable devices actually hits the workplace.
There's no avoiding the clear trend that will come as the general public adopts wearable technology. The risks that accompany wearable devices are real, but they can be managed by the company willing to prepare for what's to come. Common sense approaches and the latest security technology can go a long way to ensure a company's data is protected. Once preparations are complete, businesses can proceed to reap the benefits that wearable technology brings.