News, Wearables, Watch

Apple Watch Security: Why it Matters

Apple Watch Security

Apple Watch Security

Apple’s newest technology innovation seems to have stepped straight out of the pages of a sci-fi magazine. Although not the first smartwatch to hit the market, the fame and notoriety of the Apple brand mean that the Apple Watch has quickly become the most popular, and most talked about, wrist gadget of the last few years. There’s no denying the product has inspired a storm of reviews from many different sources, but unfortunately, due to its short lifespan, some elements of the watch have still been left relatively uninvestigated. This is definitely the case in regard to Apple Watch security.

Online security is an ever-growing concern for the cyber community, so when new technology is released, assessing and investigating potential vulnerabilities is an essential pursuit for any technical maverick. This article looks at the potential weaknesses and risk factors of this new breed of smart accessories and why it’s important to consider them.

Wearable Vulnerabilities

Wearables are a relatively new concept with a whole new connection process, and like all new things, this system holds a wealth of risk factors that are just waiting to be undisclosed. One particular point of weakness that has already been addressed is the Bluetooth connection with the wearer’s iPhone from which the watch receives traffic and data.

A recent investigation done by a leading security company highlighted that it was extremely easy for calls, texts, emails, and other information being passed between the two devices, to be intercepted by outside sources. It showed that, out of all the wearables it tested, an astounding 90 percent of the time, data being transferred could be seized with relative ease. This lack of transport encryption and security measures puts users’ personal information and data at significant risk—something that is important to consider when purchasing the product.

App Vulnerabilities

Alongside connection vulnerabilities, the fact that the Apple Watch is an app platform is another point of potential threat. Although this is relevant for any device that hosts applications, it’s particularly poignant for the Apple Watch as, at the present moment, one of the device’s biggest client base is business owners who are using it to optimize their enterprise.

The nature of an app-based attack could be disastrous for anyone relying on the system for commercial reasons. This is because this type of security infiltration usually comes in the form of malware that has been injected into the apps by hackers targeting the compilers used to transfer the code. Due to the problem being established so early in the process, the infected apps are usually then installed onto devices without the user being aware and subsequently wreak havoc, wiping and corrupting data as they go.

There have been many examples of this on iOS and OS X, so it continues to be a very real threat for Apple Watch wearers. It’s advised users are particularly vigilant when choosing which apps to install.

WiFi Vulnerabilities

Another point of vulnerability that is worth noting is the Apple Watch’s ability to connect to WiFi. This handy feature has been added to the device so it can continue to operate when the Bluetooth signal is not in range. The Apple Watch simply jumps from attempting to connect to the iPhone it’s coupled with to connecting to any WiFi networks that it can detect.

While this is a useful and convenient feature, it also brings with it a whole new breed of security risks. Public WiFi networks are notoriously insecure as the data of devices connected to them is left to fly about completely unprotected and vulnerable to any malicious prying eyes. Many hackers use these networks to intercept personal information. If your Apple Watch is left to connect without your knowledge then you could be opening yourself up to attack without even realizing it.

Fortunately, there is a way around this. By installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you can create a secure initial connection between your device and the VPN server. This means that when you connect to public networks your data is already encrypted and therefore, protected, and you can browse safely and securely.    

Theft

As well as online vulnerabilities, one of the Apple Watch’s most prominent security flaws is in regard to physical theft. The potential glitch in the device’s locking system has been noted by many online sources as a way for thieves to easily gain access once the theft has taken place. The locking system is very similar to the iPhone and other Apple products, and, while it’s pretty secure in itself, the adaptions that have had to be made for the wearable nature of the watch have left some potential problems.

The device lock is automatically activated using a sensor on the back that monitors whether the watch is in contact with skin. However, to overcome the likelihood that the watch will shift when on the wearer’s wrist, there is a short delay between the loss of contact and the locking system activating. This leaves the potential for thieves to remove the device and then recover the sensor with a finger to stop the lock from occurring. Similarly, the device can be reset to factory settings without having to enter the passcode, which means, once stolen, your watch can be wiped and sold alarmingly easily.

Why Does It Matter?

Device security is an ever-growing concern in the cyber world. As our lives continue to turn digital with the constant advent of exciting and innovative technology, so are the crimes and threats to our personal welfare that we face. Online identity theft is becoming a common practice as cybercriminals search for new ways to intercept our data and use it for their own monetary gain.

As the Apple Watch handles emails, texts, calls, and any other personal data we chose to store via apps, it’s an ideal target for hacks and a valuable resource for cybercriminals trying to steal your information. Whether your credit card details are intercepted and your bank account emptied or you simply contract a nasty piece of malware that causes you to wipe your device and lose valuable data, falling victim to a cyber-attack is a time-consuming, stressful, and generally undesirable event. Considering possible vulnerabilities in new types of technologies as they are first released is an essential practice; it means steps can be taken early and the product, and its users, can be secured.

Have you had any security breaches with your Apple Watch? Or have you taken steps and precautions that could help protect others as well? Be sure to leave your experiences and ideas in the comments to help make the world of technology a safer and more secure place overall.

Jen Martinson is an internet security specialist and blogger for Secure Thoughts, an excellent resource for important internet security information. She can occasionally be found doing algebra for fun on a Saturday night. 

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