Wearable tech and network security: time to worry?

We just touched on the telecom trend of wearables in our last post, so this is pertinent to the discussion of wearables and security.

Techradar wrote a great article on wearable tech and network security recently, leading off with the ridiculous new product from Sony -a “smartwig”.  Supposedly such an item could be worn even if you have hair – as an extra – and be used to do things like change slides for a presentation with a waggle of the eyebrows, orient and guide the wearer via GPS, or transmit biometric data (heartbeat, blood pressure) from the wearer to medical staff.

It seems farfetched, and even ludicrous, but before we launch into the “tech toupee” jokes, it raises a very serious question about detection.  How the heck does IT protect the firm from wearable devices that you can’t see!

Even today, before we have to worry much about “stealth smartwear”, it is hard to keep track of the internet-ready devices coming in the front door.  Smartwatches, fitbits, bracelets, glasses, vests – the list is endless.  And how do you tell if it’s the latest high-tech gadget, a knock off replica, or just a cheap trinket from Target.  The problem is that you sometimes can’t.

And the concern lies here – these doodads aren’t standalone, they need to pair with an existing device to tap into the internet – a phone, a tablet, a laptop.  And guess where those devices get their access?  Right.  Your network.  So take each employee, and multiply their bandwidth needs by 2, or 5, or 10 as they pile on consumer wearables from smartwatches to “smart hair”.

It increases data usage, that’s a no brainer.  But what happens when each device can tap directly – which is the inevitable next step?   That will make a lot more holes in your firewall, and how many fingers do you have to plug them?  And even today, we have no idea what kind of malware could be delivered with these things, or the lengths hackers will go to exploit the access they grant to your network, even if one device removed.

And network access is only one headache.  What about the security issues of having cameras, recording devices, and storage capabilities on innocuous looking items like jewelry, handbags or watches.  Corporate espionage will hit a whole new level when data can be stolen so easily.  Everything from downloading customer information to scanning or photographing sensitive high dollar R&D designs can be done and no one would be the wiser.

What it means, is that IT needs to tighten up security and plan for the onslaught now, so they aren’t caught flatfooted.  And as these wearables become more popular, they may even begin to creep into the business world, as smartphones and tablets did.  If you thought BYOD was bad now, just wait.  It’s gonna get a lot worse….