How to Use Your Wearables to Boost Online Security

July 7, 2016

Ever used wearables for health tracking, smartphone synchronization, or just general enjoyment? Well, now there’s another, even more important way wearables can benefit us – boosting our online security.

Whenever we log into a personal user account on our computers, mobile devices, or smart appliances, we usually have to type in a username and a password.

The problem is that cybercriminals employ a multitude of different techniques to access our account data.

This ranges from purchasing data acquired through a data breach to malware placed on your devices or any of the many other ways they could potentially compromise our security.

And once the integrity of our data and security is compromised anything may happen on our systems or accounts.

This is why we all must develop and keep to security routines, such as a routine for protecting our computer and online accounts, to avoid the repercussions of data theft.

Two-factor authentication is an absolutely vital tool in our defense against data theft, as it places our security in our own hands, rather than those of third parties.

The problem is that increasing the security level of our own routines can cause friction and discomfort, seemingly by adding new hoops to jump through.

Wearables can play an important role in reducing this as an issue, especially for two-factor authentication.

Wearables Proliferating the Market

Wearable technology is proliferating the market

Wearables have soared in popularity over the last few years.

Worldwide sales of wearable devices are expected to reach 110 million by the end of 2016. That’s an increase of more than a third over the previous year.

Though they’ve taken a little while to become sophisticated enough to begin to meet our demands in using them.

Wearable technology devices are small gadgets worn on our person. They connect to the Internet either directly via Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication, Bluetooth, or other wireless technology or via another device such as a smartphone.

They come in a wide range of types and forms and include everything from smartwatches, wristbands, fitness trackers and health monitors, wearable scanners, and navigation devices to smart jewelry and even smart clothing.

Wearables Can Enhance Your Digital Security

Improve your computer security

We’ve long been advocates of using two-factor authentication with any app or online service whenever possible.

But for some people the added usability discomfort presents a barrier to using it.

However, wearables offer us an enhanced and extremely convenient security upgrade by pairing together with another device or service.

Our smartwatches, wrist bands, or smart jewelry can be used for authentication tasks such as logging into an email account, online bank account, or other online service.

We can also use our wearables to unlock and access other devices, such as a laptop, workstation, or tablet, at home as well as in the office.

Or for example, use it to gain entry to a place of work. In this case our wearables can serve as an electronic key.

Apple users can use the Apple Watch with TouchID and an iPhone to access Apple devices and services. This works as well for Android.

And Android users who have wearables that use Android Wear can pair with Google Authenticator Plus or one of many third-party password authentication apps.

Microsoft Windows 10 users can already use two-factor authentication with their smartphones.

What Wearable Devices Currently Offer You Security Authentication?

Got the itch to try out improved security with a wearable device? Great!

Let’s dive into the types of devices out there that you can use today.

Smartwatches

There are smartwatches on the market from a number of suppliers.

Apple device owners can pair their Apple Watch in all manner of creative ways to improve security.

If you have a wearable that runs on Android Wear, then you can also use it to unlock your Android phone and other devices such as your tablet, PC, laptop, or Google Chromebook.

You can configure Android to allow a “trusted device” to unlock your phone or desired service if the device detects the presence of your smartwatch.

Wearable Jewelry

Another wearable that can offer authentication security is smart jewelry.

Smart jewelry can authenticate you to your trusted devices and services and inform you of notifications received on your smartphone as well.

There are fewer smart jewelry wearables already on the market, but there are some good ones out there with some 100+ apps available for iOS and Android.

Wristbands

Perhaps the most popular wearable next to smartwatches is the smart wristband, used by fitness buffs and quantified-self aficionados everywhere.

If you own a smart wristband, you’ll already be aware of its health and fitness monitoring capabilities.

However, most wristbands don’t yet offer authentication functionality for other devices or third-party services.

Some smart wristbands do have some basic built-in functionality to serve as a wearable companion device for Windows Phones, iOS, and Android devices though.

At the moment, most of the functionality works as simple “device present” authentication. But authenticator apps are in the works which will support multi-factor bio-metric authentication capabilities such as fingerprint scanning.

Authenticator Apps Work Together with Your Wearable Device

Now that we know which wearables can help us accomplish what, it’s time to look into exactly how we get them set up to boost our online and computer security.

To utilize the authentication functionality of these wearables, we need to install an authenticator app.

Here’s an overview of the most important authenticator apps available right now.

Google Smart Lock for Passwords

Google’s free-to-use Smart Lock can be used to unlock your Android devices, Chromebooks, and online accounts.

You can also use Smart Lock in conjunction with your Android Wear smartwatch.

Google Authenticator

The “Google Authenticator” app provides two-factor authentication.

As an alternative for Android Wear devices, you could use the Authenticator Plus app.

Authenticator Plus can also maintain a copy of your two-factor keys on your smartwatch, linked through the Authenticator Plus app on your smartphone.

This enables you to request authentication codes via your Android watch without having to use your smartphone,

You can download Authenticator Plus from the Google Play Store.  The basic version is free, but for a small payment, you can unlock the full features.

1Password

1Password is perhaps the best known third-party authentication app. It’s a great way to keep track not only of your passwords but also other sensitive data to which you may need ready access on a daily basis.

If you own an Apple Watch, then Agilebits, the development team who produces 1Password, now offers a tailor-made app for Apple Watch. It’s appropriately called “1Password for Apple Watch”.

Check out how to configure 1Password for Apple Watch.

Once you’ve enabled Apple Watch functionality in your 1Password’s settings, you can then add data to your Apple Watch. These can be items such as your login usernames, passwords, bank PINS and credit cards, lock combinations, garage codes, and door entry codes.

You can also store your data in 1Password as well as locally on your Apple Watch. This combination of Apple Watch and 1Password gives you the convenience of being able to securely retain the small items of frequently used data that you need close at hand at all times.

Key Takeaways about Wearables and Our Computer Security

Wearables are starting to incorporate built-in authentication functionality for companion devices and online services.

This means that we can already take advantage of the security boost wearables provide, even if it’s currently a bit of a pain to input a long security code during the authenticator setup process.

And there’s no shortage of exciting biometric developments in the wearable devices pipeline right now.

The hottest techniques under active development right now are biometric identifiers such as fingerprint scanning, ECG heartbeat recognition, facial recognition, voice recognition, and iris scanning.

The great thing about using biometrics for authentication is that, unlike with passwords and PIN codes, you can’t lose, forget, or share a biometric identifier.

Over the next few years, we’ll be seeing a big take-off in the adoption and acceptance of wearable devices as biometric authentication technologies become built into wearables as standard.

Wearables are set to play an increasing and vital role in our online and computer security. What are your tips for using wearable devices for online and computer security?

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