Why Smartwatches Will Become The New BYOD, And Five Steps You Can Take To Prepare.

BYOD

515225813You are what you wear:  Although there was a great deal of fanfare surrounding the launch of the Apple Watch, many observers remained unconvinced.

“At this moment,” wrote The Verge’s Nilay Patel just after the launch announcement, “it still feels like an awful lot of interesting ideas without a unifying theme.”

Here’s the thing, though – even if Apple doesn’t get it right, someone else will. As you can see from the chart below, the smartwatch market is already booming, and that’s just a sign of what’s to come. Last year, Samsung topped the market, closely trailed by startups such as Pebble and Fitbit and giants such as Sony, Lenovo and LG (the latter three all creating Android Wear-based devices, upon which our BBM communications app now runs).

In the coming years, it could be anyone’s game: the wearable computing market is projected to grow to 485 million device shipments in 2018. And keep in mind that this is with products like Google Glass and the Galaxy Gear – which have received lukewarm reviews – and single-purpose devices such as fitness watches, biometric trackers, etc. What do you suppose will happen to those numbers when someone creates a ‘perfect’ smartwatch?

We will, I expect, see something reminiscent of the early days of BYOD, when consumer phones began to outpace business-issued devices inside enterprises. People will begin purchasing smartwatches in droves, and countless employees will start bringing their own wearables into the workplace. For businesses that are unprepared, this will result in a complicated, nightmarish mess of half-baked security practices and labyrinthine compliance issues.

Infographic: Samsung Leads The Smartwatch Market | Statista

The Two Problems with the Bring-Your-Own-Wearables trend

For those that do ready themselves, on the other hand: secure management of smartwatches may still be complex, but it will be achievable – so long as the core problem with wearable devices is adequately addressed.

This problem is twofold. First: wearable tech products don’t exist in a vacuum, but are designed to extend the functionality of the technology people already own. The Apple Watch, for example, won’t be usable without an iPad or iPhone; the Galaxy Gear cannot be used without an Android phone or tablet.

That means you’re dealing with yet one more potential weak link in terms of your security. It isn’t simply the fact that they’re another connection point, either – many wearables communicate through Bluetooth, a protocol found to be inherently insecure. When one further considers that smartwatches and other devices could in the future connect to more than just other mobile devices, the need for businesses to properly manage them becomes abundantly clear.

The second component of the smartwatch problem is software-related – there are currently very few established security measures in place for wearable tech applications. A 2014 study by Symantec found that 20% of tracking apps transmit user credentials in plain text, while 52% of self-tracking apps and services lack any sort of privacy policy whatsoever. This lax approach could very easily find sensitive information in the hands of third parties – the result of either an unintentional leak or an active breach.

So, how can you prepare yourself for the advent of the enterprise smartwatch? How can you avoid being blindsided by all the issues it could represent for enterprise? There are a few things you’ll need to do:

  1. Update Your BYOD Policy To Include Wearable Tech: You need to bring your security policies up to date to deal with matters such as unsecured Bluetooth emitters, unsafe applications, and device authentication.
  2. Educate Your Employees: As an addendum to the above, you need to make your employees aware of the security risks presented by wearable devices – such as the fact that smartwatches can be used to bypass a phone’s lock screen.
  3. Streamline Your Network Infrastructure For Easier Control: Wearable devices are going to make already-complicated enterprise networks even more difficult to manage. You need to make sure you’ve a solution in place that allows you to monitor data flow through your network, and detect the presence of unauthorized devices.
  4. Moderate And Monitor The Apps Being Used: As established in the Symantec study, there exists a staggering amount of wearable apps that seemingly ignore security. You need to track the app usage of your users, and take the necessary steps to keep their data secure – or simply mandate that certain apps not be used.
  5. Make Use Of The Proper Tools: In order to adequately manage, monitor, and secure the diverse selection of devices you’re bound to encounter, it’s now even more imperative that you incorporate an EMM solution – there’s simply too much for you to handle on your own. BlackBerry’s WorkLife, for example, can sandbox and secure a business account on a user’s device, while BES12 affords you a great deal of control and visibility regarding the devices in use at your organization.

Wearable computing is on the rise, and shows no signs of slowing down. Much as with the initial phase of BYOD, it’s imperative that businesses prepare themselves for the coming storm. Those that don’t will inevitably regret it, as they struggle to manage and secure a new generation of connected devices.

About Nicholas C. Greene

Nicholas C. Greene is a technology writer based in Calgary, Canada. An English graduate of the University of Calgary, he's written for publications and organizations such as VPN Haus, Streetwise, Northcutt, and The Coolist.

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