Wearable Tech: Security Wears Thin


Every year, gadget freaks, tech pundits and journalists dutifully march to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to fawn over the newest and coolest devices. The news out of this year's show has been both exciting and disturbing.

On one hand, wearable technology is finally arriving—in the form of fitness bands, goggles and smart clothing. These devices beckon with the promise of improving our lives and making us healthier and happier.

There's no doubt that some of this marketing pap is true. I've been using a Nike Fuelband for nearly a year, and it motivates me to move around more. It's not difficult to see the benefit of UV sensors, concussion indicators in sports, and jewelry that controls locks, lights and assorted devices in our cars and homes. Smart clothing could also warn first-responders when they're exposed to toxic chemicals or at risk from high temperatures.

But, as always, there's a darker side to wearable tech. "Lurking behind some of the most exciting products being showcased this year—wearable devices—are serious privacy and security concerns," noted Christopher Budd, global threat communications manager at Trend Micro, in a recent blog post. "As the Internet of everything approaches, the stakes around privacy and security are getting higher."

Today, virtually every electronic device is vulnerable to hacks and subversion. Moreover, as more and more devices get connected to the Internet of things, the risks grow exponentially. Hackers have already commandeered baby monitors and desktop video cameras (there are reports that the NSA can spy through computer video cameras). Meanwhile, Google Glass could pose new security risks to businesses as users secretly capture confidential data.

"As we connect ourselves more and more to the Internet, literally, it's important to be mindful of the risks and implications of these new devices," Budd wrote. "Security and privacy need to be priorities in these discussions. We need to temper our enthusiasm of a bright future with the lessons of the hard past."

Unfortunately, based on past as well as current events—including Target's slow-motion data train wreck—it's difficult to believe that wearable tech won't present new wrinkles and tears in privacy and security. It's wise for business and IT executives to begin planning for the impending wave of devices and understand how they affect the enterprise.