Author: Clayton Locke
Computing isn’t just mobile, it’s now wearable.
From Google Glass to smartwatches like Pebble and Galaxy Gear, the latest high tech gadgetry is designed to be worn rather than carried.
I’ve no doubt that as we get used to wearing our technology we’ll encounter new security issues no one has thought of. But for those of us who are early adopters of wearables, we need to act to keep ourselves secure.
Our research showed that consumers wanted real-time access to their bank balances, and wearables allow them to do that, as well as check email, make payments and much more.
With all this personally identifiable information and sensitive data on your devices, what are the top security considerations?
Here are my top 3 tips:
1. Don’t make your wearable device a target
Physical security has always been an important part of how we keep our computers secure but as computing goes wearable we’ll have to think about physical security in a different way.
As computing devices get smarter and lighter they’re also becoming more visible and easier to lose. And, sadly, just like smartphones, small and expensive wearables are bound to become a desirable target for thieves.
Glasses are easily lifted and, as any tourist hot spot pickpocket can tell you, a watchstrap is not a barrier to theft.
So step one is be mindful of your environment; don’t prominently display your devices in places you wouldn’t flash your phone or wallet. It will save you from becoming a target (and also avoid social gaffs with your new Glass).
2. Keep your wearable data safe
If you do suffer the misfortune of losing your device it’s not only the hardware that’s at stake. Wearable apps can store valuable personal information and can also be a gateway to anything and everything we keep in The Cloud.
Fortunately you can keep your data secure even if your physical security is compromised but you mustn’t wait until the device is gone before you act – you need to plan for it in advance. I suggest the following security precautions for wearables:
- Use apps that encrypt sensitive data off your wearable
- Use apps that give you specifics about how data is stored securely
- Use secure Bluetooth connections to your phone
- Know how to remotely erase data on your wearable
The better apps for wearables will integrate to a main app on your phone. This is good because the wearable can take advantage of security measures that are built into the phone apps. In tethered mode you get yourself set up and authenticated securely. When your wearable is not connected to your phone you can still use the wearable app – just not the features that require a higher level of security to access.
Smartphone apps also have issues with secure encryption, but in the better smartwatch or wearable apps your phone becomes a secure gatekeeper that serves up data to your wearable device. Code signing and vetting on the App Store can help protect your wearable against embedded malware, so only download apps from the official sources.
3. Update your Wearable with the latest OS
Your device is only secure as the software on it and as wearable devices become more popular they are likely to become a cost-effective target for hackers and malware writers.
Modern hackers act fast so it’s important that you keep both your operating system and your apps up-to-date with the latest security patches. If an update is available, install it.
Although software marketplaces like the Apple App Store and Google Play have made it difficult for hackers and malware writers to get their malicious software on to your device they have not made it impossible. You should exercise common sense when choosing your apps. If it looks too good to be true it almost certainly is.
And remember, if you jailbreak your app you’ll void your warranty and lose the security offered by these ‘walled gardens’. As with tip 2, take advantage of the vetting Apple and Google do on their stores and use wearable apps that integrate with the main app on your phone.
Some people prefer to wait a while before upgrading to a new OS because early versions may have bugs that get sorted out later. That may be OK for your laptop, but for this new technology it’s better to stay bang up to date with the latest security software for your wearable.