Are Smartwatches Safe? Cybersecurity’s worst nightmare?

January 31, 2019 | Views: 4190

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322.69 million wearable devices will be sold globally in 2017, an increase of 39 percent from 232.01 million units in 2015 (Lamkin , 2016). When I think of wearable technologies I think of smartwatches. Smartwatches dominate this market. With this research paper, I plan to investigate how dangerous are smartwatches to our health, how safe is the data being transferred from phone to watch, and how to secure our private data is within the smartwatch. We use smartwatches in every aspect of our life from swimming to data processing, it is important to know how safe they really are.

What health issues come with the short/long term use of smartwatches?

An article from the NY Times stated, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a group within the World Health Organization (WHO), determined that cell phones have the potential to cause cancer, within the same article, Bilton wrote about a study conducted by a professor in Sweden named Dr. Lennart Hardell studied how talking on a cell phone for prolonged periods could triple the risk of certain kinds of brain cancers (Bilton, 2015). The two studies stated previously focused primarily on cellphones. Unlike cellphones, smartwatches are worn directly on you for long periods of time. The Apple watch utilizes Bluetooth and WiFi to receive information and researches say there is no proven damage from those frequencies (Bilton, 2015), which clears up my health concerns, but not my cybersecurity concerns.

How secure is the data being transferred back and forth, from phone to smartwatch?

Frequencies (Bluetooth or WiFi) used by smartwatches might not cause physical damage to your health, but it can interfere with the integrity of your data. Hewlett-Packard (HP) examined 10 popular smartwatches and found a major weakness in the area of software updates for the smartwatches (Kerner, 2015). HP found that 70 percent of the tested smartwatches did not perform the software updates with encryption. As a result, smart watches were open to the risk on a man in the middle attach that could intercept the data and potentially load malicious firmware (Kerner, 2015). In result, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies are good when using encryption technologies concurrently. For the Apple watch Bluetooth is used if your phone is close, if not, WiFi is utilized (Apple, 2016). A security firm based out of Romania named Bitdefender used a sniffing tool to see if they could intercept a message. This firm paired a Samsung Gear Live SmartWatch to a Google Nexus 4 cellphone via Bluetooth then sent the message out through the watch while sniffing the network. The message was not only intercepted by the sniffing tool but it was intercepted in plain text (Khandelwal, 2014). These devices don’t only transmit messages they can also transmit our personal identifiable information (PII). Ensuring these technologies have a more secure way to transmitted data should be everyone’s concern. New technologies can be convenient and useful, but we must keep in mind the security concerns.

How protected is our data that is stored on the smartwatch (data at rest)?

Now that we have discussed the issues with data being transferred, it is time to discuss data stored on the smartwatches and how safe our private information is. When conducting the test on the ten most popular smartwatches, HP also exposed some vulnerabilities with the data being stored on the smartwatches (Khandelwal, 2015). Out of the ten, not a single smartwatch was found to be 100 percent safe, HP exposed three out of ten phones allowed unlimited login attempts, also completely didn’t offer two-factor authentication or the ability to lock the account after 3 to 5 failed password attempts (Khandelwal, 2015). These implications are an idea for hackers using a brute force attack (BFA) (a BFA is when a hacker tries to guess your pin or password either manually or automated) to penetrate a device.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, cell phones and smartwatch technologies have been linked to certain illnesses, but they do not pose a significant enough risk to be alarmed. Data being transferred without some type of encryption from phone to smartwatch isn’t as secure as it should be, though the Bitdefender experiment we saw messages were exposed in plain text using a sniffing tool. Finally, we learned that the data stored on our smartwatches might be at risk.

References
Lamkin, P. (2016, February 3). Smartwatch sales to soar… Apparently. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/paullamkin/2016/02/03/smartwatch-sales-to-soar-apparently/#7ba0125a22d8
Bilton, N. (2015, April 20). The health concerns in Wearable tech. Style. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/19/style/could-wearable-computers-be-as-harmful-as-cigarettes.html?_r=0
Kerner, S. M. (2015). Smartwatches Are Not All That Smart When It Comes to Security. Eweek, 1.
About Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on Apple watch.

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