Wearable devices came to prominence during the mid-to-late 2000s, the product innovators looking to draw actionable insights from the machinations of everyday life. In the years since, these fixtures have transformed from novelties into essential accessories. Retailers are expected to sell more than 310 million wearables worldwide in 2017, generating over $30 billion in revenue from these products alone, according to analysts at Gartner.
While consumers have driven much of this growth, businesses are also navigating the wearable market, developing and deploying cutting-edge mobile workflows that hinge on these increasingly powerful devices. Back in 2015, software provider APX Labs surveyed numerous organizations across a variety of industries and found that 93 percent of respondents – including multiple Fortune 500 companies – were exploring wearable technology. Additionally, 87 percent supported the belief that these unique connected components would impact business operations over the forthcoming five years.
This state of affairs has since come to pass. Widespread adoption is fueling the enterprise wearable market, which is expected to reach $55 billion by 2022, achieving a compound annual growth rate of 30 percent, according to projections from ABI Research. However, while businesses rush to incorporate employee trackers, fitness bands and smartwatches into their information technology infrastructure, the data security risks mount. Wearables, though advanced technologically, introduce significant risk, CIO reported.
"From an enterprise IT standpoint, this could be particularly worrisome because of the channel wearables maintain with smartphones that adversaries could exploit," ClearPass Security Vice President Vinay Anand told the magazine. "As wearables are usually connected to a variety of cloud apps and, depending on an organization's BYOD policy, the corporate network, this can be a launch point for an attack. This means that malware and other forms of attacks can use that path to compromise the phone and then other resources inside the network."
With this in mind, modern enterprises considering taking advantage of wearable enterprise devices must allocate significant resources toward developing and deploying new data security strategies designed to protect these vulnerable fixtures. Here are some of the most effective methodologies corporate IT departments and their external partners are currently implementing:
"Widespread adoption is fueling the enterprise wearable market, which is expected to reach $55 billion by 2022."
Defending company networks
Like Anand mentioned above, the biggest data security risk associated with enterprise wearables is their relationship with company networks. These fixtures can act as entry points for cybercriminals with the objective of entering corporate computer systems and stealing trade secrets or sensitive customer or employee information. This presents a complicated problem, as wearables need network connectivity to generate return on investment. How do IT teams address this complex issue?
Eliminating unnecessary network connectivity is often the first response, according to IT Toolbox. With this strategy, internal technical specialists de-couple potentially vulnerable end points from backend enterprise systems, reducing the risk of total network infection. The wearables that do maintain full connectivity are often isolated within company servers. This reduces the impact of possible breaches and ultimately eases mitigation activities.
Ensuring secure vendor support
Most organizations cannot handle wearable deployment alone, as the technology is too fluid for routine-oriented corporate IT teams to manage and protect effectively. As a result, cloud vendors and other technology firms specializing in the internet of things often end up taking on some device management duties. Of course, some wearables come with pre-installed software that is maintained by third parties, adding further complexity to this collaborative environment.
When engaging with third parties like these, business must ensure these partners have high security standards and employ individuals with the credentials needed to safely manage wireless devices loaded with sensitive company and personal insights, according to CIO. Organizations should focus on partnering with firms that have achieved security certifications from key oversight bodies such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Security Standards Council.
Providing employee training
Training is the most effective remedy for data security concerns, including those connected to enterprise wearable devices. Professionals who understand the risks involved with using these fixtures and how to mitigate them can effectively protect both their personal data and the information stored on company networks. With this in mind, it is important for companies adopting wearable devices to invest in instructional resources that cover specific device management best practices such as enabling complex access controls, regularly updating software and vetting applications before installation, according to Datafloq.
In addition to the strategies outlined above, businesses can prepare for an influx of enterprise wearables and develop effective digital defenses for these fixtures by embarking on IT modernization. By putting into place updated backend technology, adopters can improve their core data security protections.
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