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Wearables in the workplace

22 · SEP ·2015

When Trend Micro and Vanson Bourne asked IT decision makers if their businesses were ready for wearables in the workplace, 61 per cent said that their employers already encouraged their employees to wear devices. Sixty per cent confirmed that they had implemented or planned to introduce, wearable devices in the near future. Wearable technology can vary from smartwatches (like the Apple watch) to smart glasses (Google glass) to fitness bracelets (such as FitBit). There’s been a great deal of discussions about the benefits businesses can reap from using such devices.

Productivity boom or security risk?

For example, businesses can use wearables to help employees be more productive (one study found that the technology could increase employee productivity by up to 8.5 per cent), and aid them with training. They could also provide them to shop floor, or warehouse staff to help with stock management or customer interactions.

Some private health providers are incentivising their clients to use fitness wearables, which businesses could also benefit from through fitter, more productive employees. However, wearables are subject to the same sort of vulnerabilities as any other computers, and businesses need to address these concerns if they want to benefit from the advantages that this technology has to offer without opening itself up to risks.

Harsh realities

Juniper Research forecasts that the wearables market will have generated $53.2bn in hardware revenue by 2019, but are businesses ready to face the security challenges that wearables pose?

Wearables that come with their own operating systems, like smartwatches, can download and install apps, any of which could pose a risk to the device and any other devices and systems it connects to. As far-fetched as it may sound, it could be possible for a competitor to gain access to the data stored on wearables. A competitor discovering contact details for clients a salesperson is visiting and the deal they are offering could give them everything they need to target these clients, for example. Hackers can use wearables as an easy way to gain access to the corporate IT network, or to access valuable data that can be sold on to competitors and criminals alike. Wearables that are charged via USB are a great way to transfer a Trojan virus from the users home PC to their work system. Just as when BYOD became commonplace there were concerns, and rightly so, about creating an open door to corporate networks but now there isn’t an office in the country that hasn’t adapted and embraced their employees’ use of personal devices. The same approach needs to be taken when it com to wearables. Banning wearables may sound like a good idea at first, but it’s unworkable. Not only would it be almost impossible to get employees to stop using or connecting wearable devices, but the business would miss out on the advantages that come with using wearable devices.

Security policies

The Trend Micro and Vanson Bourne research also found that nine per cent of organisations asked had no policies or guidelines when it came to personal devices that could connect to the corporate network. It reported that 85 per cent of respondents were aware of the risks to company data, 64 per cent reported that they weren’t concerned with the proliferation of wearable technology in the office.

If businesses want to benefit from wearables, and the advantages they bring (such as increased productivity) they need to adapt their security policies to account for the new risks that wearable technology brings.
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Posted by Sanita Karra