As CES 2016 Begins, More Reasons for a ‘Bring Your Own Wearables’ Policy

by Bharat Mistry

It might only be the first week in January but already the world’s biggest technology firms are lining up to show you what they’ve been up to over the past 12 months. Wednesday will see the official opening of CES 2016 – the world’s largest consumer electronics trade show. As always, Las Vegas will provide the backdrop as we get a tantalising glimpse into the future – and like last year, much of the focus is likely to centre on the Internet of Things.

But while CES shows us what’s coming down the road, CIOs would do well to remember that smart devices are already finding their way into the enterprise in ever greater numbers. And as they start to sync and share more data than ever before, IT leaders will need to start adapting BYOD plans accordingly.    

The smart money
The Internet of Things is set to become one of the biggest things to happen in the technology world since the advent of virtualisation and cloud computing. Gartner estimates the installed base of smart ‘things’ will grow to 26 billion units by 2020, while IDC is claiming that the market will be worth a staggering $1.7 trillion by that year.

That might sound like a generous prediction, but in reality the Internet of Things is already everywhere: from wearables to smart home appliances, and connected cars to medical devices. It keeps aircraft in the sky, cars running smoothly, and even makes sure our supermarkets never run out of food.

This year the 150,000+ consumers descending on Las Vegas will see what the next generation of smart things has to offer. There’ll be flying drones, powerful new chips, designs for autonomous vehicles, and smart home gadgets all vying for hearts, minds and wallets. And for those who like to look even further into the future – how about ‘smart foam’, designed to turn products like mattresses and seats into connected ‘things’?

Wearables was one of the first IoT sub-categories to gain real consumer traction, of course, and this interest has only grown over 2015 with the launch of Apple Watch. Now Fitbit and others will be trying to wrest the momentum back with sleeker, more stylish wearable devices incorporating more functionality and back-end services to entice the consumer.

Time for BYOW
But for UK IT leaders, this is no time to sit back and admire the innovations in wearable tech coming down the line. Even back in March last year research we commissioned found that nearly 80% of European organisations are seeing more staff bring in wearables. That shows no signs of abating. Yet many of the big brand smart watches on the market, for example, have issues which could present security headaches to the enterprise.

Last summer, we studied Android watches from LG, Samsung, Motorola and Asus alongside the Apple Watch and Pebble. None had authentication enabled by default and the Android devices would not lock if connected by Bluetooth to a “trusted” smartphone. This means that if they were stolen together a thief would have full access to both devices. Only the Apple Watch had a timeout function and the option of wiping data after a number of failed log-ins. But it also syncs and saves far more info from the accompanying smartphone than the others – including images, contacts, calendars and Passbook data.

As the lines between corporate and personal device use blur ever further, it’s clear security bosses need to add wearable technology to the smartphones and tablets they should already be covering in BYOD policies.

A few tips to consider:

  • Ensure all employees are well trained in cybersecurity basics and understand the risks of wearables
  • Research market leading wearables and draw up list of allowed devices according to your risk appetite
  • Ensure they can only connect to the network if up-to-date with patches, on the prescribed list and have authentication enabled
  • Smart watch apps are limited at the moment, but more are promised. Operate whitelisiting or downloads only from ‘trusted’ app stores to minimise risk of infection

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