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Can Wearable Technology Threaten the Cyber Security of Your Business?

wearable technology security issues

These days, the most vulnerable spot in your company’s cyber security walks in and out of your front door multiple times a day.

That’s right – long gone are the days when your data lived safely behind firewalls. Sensitive information now lives within mobile clothing and accessories such as wristband fitness trackers, transaction-enabled devices and even bras.

Welcome to the brave new world of wearables, the focus of the Travelers Indemnity Company’s, or simply Travelers, latest entry in its Global Technology’s Risk Advisor series, “The Wearables Revolution Has Arrived [1]” (PDF).

Breaking Down The Types of Wearables

In their report, Travelers broke down wearables into five categories:

  1. Smart glasses and headgear – e.g. Google glasses and Samsung’s Gear VR;
  2. Smart watches – e.g. Apple and Android watches and ;
  3. Fitness trackers – e.g. Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, and Microsoft Band;
  4. Wearable medical devices – e.g. Medtronic Continuous Glucose Monitoring system and the ZIO Wireless Patch; and
  5. Smart clothing and accessories – e.g. Visijax products and the aforementioned OMSignal Bra.

According to Travelers, “Regardless of their physical size or commercial application, wearable devices have three enabling technologies that make them ‘smart’:”

wearable technology security issues

Many wearable products are able to track more than the simple information for which they’re marketed. Two examples of this include:

  1. High-end fitness trackers that can track not only steps but other health vitals and even offer email and social media functionality and connectivity; and
  2. Smart watches that offer mobile payment functionality via transmission (e.g. paying for your Starbucks without lugging around your wallet).

Wearable Technology Security Issues

Travelers breaks down the risks posed by wearables into three “classes”:

  1. Cyber;
  2. Bodily injury; and
  3. Technology errors and omissions.

Each risk class poses its own problems to businesses, though the second, “Bodily harm” is specific only to wearable manufacturers and will not be discussed here. The following sections will look at the business risks of the remaining two classes and list approaches to minimize those risks.

Class 1: Cyber Risks Posed by Wearables

If you’re worried about wearable technology security issues, you’re not alone. In fact, cyber risks and data breaches were the second-biggest concern of US businesses in 2015:

wearable technology security issues

The following two “Illustrative Risk Scenarios” provided by Travelers demonstrate that wearable technology security issues bring their own brand of risks to businesses:

Note: there were personal risk scenarios mentioned in the report as well – we will focus on the business-specific examples only here.

To minimize wearable technology security issues, Travelers suggest that businesses look for the following features in the wearables they allow and, if they cannot find them, they should demand them from manufacturers:

Class 3: Technology Errors and Omissions Risks Posed by Wearables

While it’s presumed that wearable manufacturers take every possible precaution to release a flawless product to the marketplace, it’s inevitable that errors will happen and that details will be missed.

The following two “Illustrative Risk Scenarios” provided by Travelers demonstrate that wearables bring their own brand of “Murphy’s Law” to businesses:

While Traveler’s suggestions to alleviate risk in this class were primarily aimed at limiting the liability of wearable manufacturers, here are a couple of common-sense recommendations you can use to reduce the risk to your business in these scenarios:

Conclusion

The growing number of wearable “smart” products is sure to usher in a new age of wearable technology security issues for businesses. While this may lead you to ban wearables altogether, their business benefits in terms of increased productivity and functionality are undeniable.

As with all new technologies, the key lies in managing risk; reducing the damage that a new technology can inflict on your business. With that approach in mind, your business can more comfortably move forward into exploring the wearables revolution.

Smart Watch [2] Photo via Shutterstock