Technology is revolutionizing the way we live, and wearables are the next evolution. From fitness to entertainment to life management applications, more and more people are realizing the power of modern wearable gadgets and clothing.
But there is a downside — and it can be a big one. Using wearables carelessly can pose major security risks, leading to data breaches, privacy loss and identity theft. In some cases, inherent flaws in the products being sold in this still-emerging market even prevent users from acting to safeguard sensitive data.
Users can fight back, however. With a few simple precautions, anyone can better protect themselves from malicious cyberattacks carried out by the black-hat criminals lurking in every corner of our new-age world.
With all the personal information given to companies like Facebook, the push to maintain privacy has slowly deteriorated over time. Especially to the youngest generation, this is not nearly as large of a concern as it was in the past.
But wearables are one reason it is coming back into the conversation, as these always-on gadgets can gather, hold and transmit data including geolocation and health information. While bragging on social about all the miles you've run after the fact can be motivating, sharing real-time data about your location can put you at danger, whether that is to your personal safety or to someone interested in robbing your home while you're away.
"If you want to be considered an individual and not just a data point, then it's in your interest to protect your privacy," Josh Lifton, CEO of Crowd Supply, told the online publication Tech Republic earlier this year.
Watching Your Wallet
Smart watches are essentially mini-computers — or smartphones for your wrist. For this reason, people use them to connect to all sorts of accounts, from social media to email to payment apps. While services like Google Wallet and Paypal are very convenient, and the power of the wearable watch only makes them more so, using them in this fashion can be dangerous.
With most smartphones, the manufacturers and software providers are more mature and the market is larger. This means vulnerabilities are discovered quickly most of the time, whereas fewer people using each type of smart watch means that exploits can remain un-patched for longer times.
The best bet is to limit your use of financial-based apps on your watch. That will limit their power — but it will leave you much more secure and less likely to wake up to an empty bank account.
While smart watches are the wearables that, at least today, contain the most personal information, almost any wearable will have some info about you. And since most manufacturers of items like fitness trackers don't invest heavily in security, they are now soft targets for hackers who may be able to pull away data like your date of birth (often included in health apps) or your home address (regularly included by runners who track their routes). While this alone won't give criminals full access to your whole life, it is a piece of the puzzle that can help them open a credit card account in your name or take out a faulty loan.
The key is to always remember that, at the end of the day, every piece of technology — and every person — is vulnerable to cybercrime. The key is to protect yourself to the highest degree possible. Everyone should have an affordable backup plan in place in case they become a target of unscrupulous hackers. Protection services like LifeLock can be invaluable in preventing identity theft.
For a low cost, this is one of the best ways to maintain your peace of mind; it's impossible to overvalue your own feeling of security.