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How secure are wearable devices?

The popularity of wearable technology devices is soaring, as they are offering functions way beyond fitness and sleep monitoring. According to CCS Insight, the industry will be worth some $34 billion by 2020, and eMarketer predicts that 81.7% of US adults will be using wearable devices by 2018.

“It is our view that wearable technology will find its way into a plethora of new applications and environments,” says Deidre Henning, Group Human Resources from DRS, a Cyber 1 company. “From the office to home, from manufacturing to healthcare, these technologies are paving the way for major industry advancements. However, they are also posing new security risks and threats.”

He says every new device that attaches itself to the internet, and has sensors that talk to other devices, widens the potential attack surface for cyber criminals. “Think about the sheer amount of biometric data wearable devices collect. This will provide cyber criminals with additional opportunities to get their hands on sensitive information, and will drive the use of social engineering to craft cunning and targeted phishing scams.”

According to Henning, both individuals and corporate entities will have to look at security tools, measures and regulations designed specifically around the mobility and unique uses of these devices.

“Consider the Bluetooth networks that are employed to transmit data from wearable devices to mobile devices. There have been a number of documented security breaches already, and this is only set to get worse as wearable devices become standard vehicles for collecting and transmitting data.”

She says to think about a jogger who uses a wearable device to track his or her route and running time. “If his or her GPS data is collected and stored in one or another running app connected to the device, a clever attacker could use the jogger’s location data to craft a highly personalised phishing scam that would be more likely to trick the user.”

Should the victim fall prey to the scam, all his or her mobile device and other valuable data could be at risk. “And we haven’t even thought about the number of employees which will soon be bringing a flood of wearable devices into the workplace,” Henning says.

In addition, the more integrated versions of wearable technologies, which would include implantables, such as pacemakers, as well as ingestibles, including cameras, should become a top security concern. “Not only have hackers managed to hack insulin pumps and pacemakers, there have been occasions where malware has found its way onto medical devices used in radiology departments, cardiac labs, and other places that put patients’ safety at risk.”

Unfortunately, she says it is a reality today that technology has become a core part of our business and personal lives, with the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds starting to blur. “People can be placed in danger when managing wearable technologies and it’s crucial that wearable providers have good solutions in place to ensure the safety of these devices and methods for ensuring these devices remain secure and without malfunctions during use.

Moreover, every organisation should carefully consider the dangers that accompany the use of wearable devices in the workplace, Henning concludes.

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