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Seven ways to manage and secure business wearables

The enterprise mobility management market for wearable devices is in its infancy, but IT can still use existing EMM tools to manage wearables.

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Wearable devices could be coming to an organization near you, so it’s time for IT administrators to assess the...

management and security capabilities around wearables in their business. Companies with sales workforces or field workers, or in verticals such as healthcare and manufacturing, may soon find uses for wearables that can provide employees with a hands-free, portable app experience.

Given the unique properties of wearables, it will take time for vendors in the enterprise mobility management (EMM), WLAN, and wireless intrusion prevention system markets to fully integrate these new kinds of devices into mobile policies and device settings and alerts.

However, there are many opportunities for IT to use existing platforms to manage and secure wearable devices. IT departments should get a head start on developing a wear your own device (WYOD) strategy, and the following seven suggestions are a good way to begin.

  1. Companies can adjust their EMM policy to combine restrictions with geofencing. IT can disable Bluetooth between wearable devices and IT-managed smartphones or tablets, either altogether or in high-risk areas.
  2. Use EMM application blacklists to disable wearable-specific apps on managed smartphones. Better yet, IT-managed containers and tools such as Apple's Managed Open In feature can control the flow of data between enterprise apps. IT has several resources available to prevent users from sharing business data in personal apps specific to their wearables.
  3. When wearables lack enterprise-grade authentication, IT can use WLAN access control lists and intrusion prevention systems to block or allow enterprise network access to business wearables.
  4. If your organization allows WYOD, consider using authentication such as biometrics, proximity and geofencing. These approaches are useful for enabling the device itself and for using wearables as an authentication token to unlock or start other business resources.
  5. Analyze network traffic to detect and measure the workload that wearable-generated data streams create. However, employers may want to avoid logging wearable device traffic too extensively, given that if often includes personally identifiable information.
  6. Use wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS) to detect and report on irregular connections and potential attacks that could exploit business wearables. As with any new consumer electronics, wearables are likely to harbor at least a few vulnerabilities, and it's important to identify and address any low-hanging fruit.
  7. IT can already manage a few wearable devices as if they were smartphones -- most notably, Android-based smart watches. For the others, IT can use regular EMM to assess and enroll devices, provision security policies, applications and data containers, and apply actions such as find and wipe when business wearables are lost or stolen. Craft custom policies for these devices to balance risk and usability, and work with early adopters to refine those policies for future use.

As more wearables enter the workplace, EMM, WLAN and WIPS providers will adjust their services to allow better wearable device management. However, IT can't ignore security concerns in the meantime, as there are already several useful options out there to manage wearable access.

Next Steps

Five things IT should know about wearable devices

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This was last published in March 2015

Essential Guide

Prevent enterprise IoT security challenges with preparation

GUIDE SECTIONS

  1. Basics
  2. Risks
  3. Strategy
  4. Privacy

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Has your organization prepared yet for wearable devices?
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Many of our employees have plans to purchase some of the newest devices, such as smart watches. It should also be a part of our technology budget in the upcoming year. We anticipate that over the next 1-2 years, wearables will increase the productivity of our staff by an average of 10 percent.
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I wonder how it's possible to quantify wearables' impact on productivity at this point - are there any studies out there that have shown increases (or decreases) in worker output based on use of wearable technology. I'd guess it depends a lot on the industry and role. 
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It's too soon for us. We're seeing the occasional smart watch and even the one-day appearance of Glass. Not sure either will ultimately be very effective in our offices, so we're waiting to see.
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Not yet. We have a few company-owned wearables, so we're doing some research on how they can be used. But no policy is in place yet.
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Although it may not seem like it, I believe that the first ones to try out wearables for business are going to be small businesses. They don't have the major commitment of implementing it across hundreds of employees; it would only be over a few employees, just to test the waters.

As for planning for small businesses using wearables, I would love to see Bushel (http://bushel.com), an MDM solution, provide a new upgrade to manage the Apple Watch once it comes out. That would make it even more reasonable for small businesses to test out wearables in the workplace, which could really take off if properly supported.
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Interesting, Scott - I'm still not sure what those small businesses would use these wearables for, however. 
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The biggest issue will be setting a clearly defined boundary between corporate assets and wearable devices, so that critical data is segmented and protected.
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We need guidelines quickly. Pretty tough ones, too. Wearables will be ubiquitous in the workplace very soon. I'm not overly concerned about devices that are brought in innocently - oops, I forget to take off my watch - but wearables that arrive running some innocent free app with an inquisitive mind of its own....
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We need to prepare for this very quickly before we're inundated with wearables of every sort. I'm not terribly concerned about all the innocent arrivals - oops, I forgot to leave my watch/glasses/whatever outside - but the very smart things running some newly found free app sporting an overly inquisitive mind of its own....
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