UAB - The University of Alabama at Birmingham

The Comprehensive Survey on the Security of Wearable Computing

Wearable computing is rapidly getting deployed in many – commercial, medical and personal – domains of day-to-day life. Wearable devices appear in various forms, shapes and sizes , including those that are “head-worn” (e.g., glasses and headsets), “eye-worn” (e.g., contact lenses), “wrist-worn” (e.g., watches, bracelets and wrist bands), “feet-worn” (e.g., shoes) and “body-worn” (e.g., e-textiles and smart fabrics), and facilitate a wide variety of applications in many domains of life. Plethora of sensors available in the wearables have created their applications in various sectors including communication, medical, wellness, fitness, business and glamour. However, wearables raise unique security and privacy concerns. For example, they may compromise the privacy of wearers or bystanders, provide unfettered access to sensitive data, enable sensor-based sniffing and side channel attacks, and facilitate hidden plagiarism. On the other hand, Wearables also hold the promise to help enhance the existing security, privacy, and safety paradigms in unique ways while preserving system’s usability. For example, wearable devices could be used to improve the security and usability of the authentication process, and may give rise to improved pedestrian and driver safety systems.

In this survey, first, as a background, we identify a wide range of existing as well as upcoming wearable devices and investigate their broad applications in various domains, such as medical, sports and fitness, and business operation. Second, we provide an exposition of the security and privacy of wearable computing, studying dual aspects, i.e., both attacks and defenses. Third, we provide a comprehensive study of the potential security, privacy and safety enhancements to existing systems based on the emergence of wearable technology. Although several research works have emerged exploring different offensive and defensive uses of wearables, there is a lack of a broad and precise literature review systematizing all those security and privacy aspects and the underlying threat models. This research survey also analyzes current and emerging research trends, and provides directions for future research. Figure below provides a high-level overview of the survey.

A high-level overview of the research survey.

A high-level overview of the research survey.





  • An Offensive and Defensive Exposition of Wearable Computing
    Prakash Shrestha and Nitesh Saxena
    In ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR), 2017.