Mobile World Congress: Wearables now in 79% of European workplaces

Trend Micro research finds the majority of European workplaces are seeing wearable devices connecting to their networks

Research commissioned by security supplier Trend Micro at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona found that 79% of European organisations are seeing more staff bringing wearable devices into the workplace, with 77% of organisations actively encouraging their use.

With 2015 already identified in some quarters as the tipping point for mainstream acceptance of wearable devices, and 4.6 million wearable fitness bands being shipped in 2014, Trend Micro had Vanson Bourne poll 800 decision-makers in Europe and the Middle East to examine the impact of the technology.

The survey found that 82% of organisations had either begun to use or were interested in implementing wearable technology, with the key drivers including a boost to staff productivity and requirements in business insurance policies. Just over a third of those quizzed said wearables could form part of a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programme.

When it came to the UK, Trend Micro found more negative sentiment around wearables, noting that 39% of businesses discouraged staff from bringing such devices into the workplace, even though a clear majority of staff were doing so.

UK CIOs were found to be the most concerned about corporate security, spending more than double on data encryption measures.

The UK also topped the list for lack of awareness around compromised corporate data, with 36% of British organisations unaware if their data had been compromised by employee-owned devices.

Wearable devices will change security policies 

Naturally, the security risks around wearable technology were noted by Trend Micro, which found that across Europe, two-thirds of respondents allowed staff to access corporate data on their personal devices and 95% said wearables presented a security risk. 

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This perceived risk was mostly because policy around them had not been set, although a good number also believed they were a weak point for cyber criminals to attack.

A full 90% of respondents said their security policies would have to change to account for wearable devices, and over half said their organisations needed to bring in limitations on what data wearables were allowed to capture. The majority, at 79%, said wearable security policies would have to be introduced.

Trend Micro CTO Raimund Genes said businesses needed to show greater diligence around their use and policing of wearable tech.

“When it comes to wearable devices, these are not only close to you in a physical sense but also collect all kinds of personal information which can be misused, not only by cyber criminals but also by companies looking to harvest and re-sell this data. I strongly recommend that companies conduct a thorough risk assessment of these devices before allowing them to be used in business environments,” he said.

Vinod Bange, partner and data protection specialist at law firm Taylor Wessing, said it would be better to understand and avoid risks at the early stages of privacy intrusive technology projects than have to bolt on expensive systems after the event. 

“Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) may yet become a legal obligation in the near future if the proposals in Article 33 of the draft EC Data Protection Regulation are adopted, however completing a PIA should be seen as more than just a legal box-ticking exercise,” he said.

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