Despite hack, security experts urge no fear of Google Glass

The security risk Google Glass poses to companies is no greater than smartphones or other technology that someone could use to secretly record video and snap pictures, experts say.

Google Glass and its potential security risks came under scrutiny with the recent jailbreaking of the headset that many see as the start of wearable computing as a mass market.

The model rooted by Android and iOS developer Jay Freeman was sold only to developers. Glass is not yet available to the general public.

Freeman cracked Glass in two hours by exploiting a well-known vulnerability in Android 4.0.4, the version of the operating system that ships with the device. Once in, Freeman was able to fully control the device, bypassing the security mechanisms put in place by Google. In general, tech-savvy people will jailbreak a device in order to run applications or to modify it in ways not allowed by the manufacturer.

The Glass break-in did not surprise Tim Bray, developer advocate for Google. "Yes, Glass is hackable. Duh," he said on Twitter.

In an interview with Forbes, Freeman was not yet sure what he could do with the device now that he had access to its software. However, Jason Perlow, senior technology editor for ZDNet, opined that Glass could be modified to secretly record video and take pictures without the user knowing.

As a recording device, the current version of Glass has serious limitations. With roughly 12GB of usable storage, there is not much room for a lot of video, although that is plenty of capacity for pictures.

Battery life is also not great. A person reading email and taking some pictures and short video could get roughly five hours, according to a review on Engadget. The maximum time would fall dramatically if someone took a lot of video.

These limitations would make Glass a weak alternative to small video devices already available if someone wanted to secretly record in an office, Anton Chuvakin, analyst for Gartner said Wednesday.

"It's completely unrealistic, but exciting to talk about," Chuvakin said of using Google Glass in a clandestine operation.

Because of the hardware limitations, jailbreaking the device also did not add much more risk. "To me, the risk of a rooted Glass device is similar to a rooted smartphone," Chuvakin said.

In addition to Glass' weak capabilities as a recorder, it is also far more expensive than much better stealthy video equipment. "Glass could certainly be used for espionage, but it is a very expensive toy to use for that purpose and has little to no advantage over already existing methods," said Chester Wisniewski, a senior security adviser for Sophos.

The bigger security issue with the current version of Glass is not having a mechanism to set a password in order to use the device, Wisniewski said. "But we can assume that a production ready version would not ship with such shoddy security."

Read more about data privacy in CSOonline's Data Privacy section.

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