Apple Watch debut highlights need to manage wearable, IoT security

This week's launch of the Apple Watch has provided a focal point for security vendors who are flooding the market with new capabilities designed to prevent the Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm from becoming a runaway security threat.

Those new capabilities may be appealing for consumer customers keen to adopt the latest and greatest technologies, but they will present new challenges for businesses as they deliver new immediacy to employee interactions and capabilities.

Gartner analyst Avivah Litan has expressed concerns about the potential for readily-accessible new payment methods – in particular, Apple Pay, which will be facilitated by the Apple Watch – to increase fraud, and has called on vendors to build tight identity control mechanisms into their applications.

Such issues are a small part of a broader problem with IoT, which has been highlighted by Gartner and others: new architectures, disaggregated information-management models and increasingly complex management and monitoring requirements will all keep IoT front of mind for security-focused IT staff.

Vendors have already moved to get ahead of the trend: identity-management vendor Centrify, for one, announced at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) that it had expanded its multi-factor authentication and single sign-on capabilities to address the needs of the next generation of wearable devices.

As well as supporting the fingerprint scanners built into Samsung and Apple devices, the Centrify solution now also integrates with Android Wear devices, providing easy multi-factor authentication with one-tap verification. For example, a demonstration at MWC showed the Samsung Gear smartwatch accessing a secure mobile app 'container' built around Samsung's KNOX 'sandbox' security platforms.

Ease of use may help integrate wearables into existing security models – particularly thanks to the efforts of mobile vendor group GSMA, whose members are banding together in the GSMA Consumer Remote SIM Provisioning effort to deliver a standard for automatically enrolling wearable and other IoT devices into existing corporate security paradigms – but sheer scale means the challenges posed by the new technology are likely to get worse before they gets better.

Verizon, for one, recently evaluated the IoT market in its State of the Market: The Internet of Things 2015 and expected that it would quadruple worldwide by 2020 to include 5.4 billion connections worldwide – including more than 13 million health and fitness tracking devices brought into the workplace by 2018.

“New use cases are created every day; however, the business case for IoT and enterprise adoption often gets overlooked,” Mark Bartolomeo, vice president IoT Connected Solutions at Verizon, said in a statement.

“Within the past year, amid an improving economy, we’ve seen a number of new entrants starting to use IoT as a roadmap to improve their customers’ experiences, accelerate growth and create new business models that are driving societal innovation.”

A recent Embarcadero Technologies survey found that ANZ developers are even more keen to identify business uses for IoT devices, with 92 percent of respondents (versus 84 percent globally) saying they were targeting their IoT solutions at business customers.

Verizon already manages more than 15 million IoT-enabled connections for customers across a wide range of industries. And that number is sure to grow over time, ensuring that security-minded technology administrators have their work cut out for them: a growing proportion of the IoT growth will come from the emerging category of smart watches, which were omnipresent at MWC.

While the Apple Watch has a distinctive design that will be immediately obvious to the casual observer, many of the newer devices don't betray their smart-watch design without a careful look. The Huawei Watch, for example, has been designed to look like a conventional device with a round bezel, metal or leather bands, and a 286 ppi touch-sensitive screen that allows for a high-resolution image of a range of watch faces.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.