Exploding batteries and texting while driving aren’t the only dangers of smartphones. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security risks create problems for IT departments faster than they’re being solved.
Bringing your own device to work is an increasingly popular trend, and it’s easy to see why. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are mainstays in consumer lives. Companies are cashing in on the money-saving benefits of allowing personal devices to be used in the workplace.
But what companies are now finding out is that those cost-saving benefits might not be worth it. These days, Bring Your Own Device is also synonymous with Bring Your Own Risks. Over half of private companies have now banned BYOD practices altogether.
But before you scrap the idea altogether, companies should work toward understanding the risks of personal devices at work and see if it’s possible to fill any gaps in defense.
Take a look at these top five security considerations you might not have thought of.
1. You Lose Control Over Data Being Stored and Transmitted
What happens when an employee loses their device? Or worse, leaves the company?
Because the device is a personal one, how can you protect the data on that device?
You don’t know how your data is being used and transmitted. You aren’t sure if employees are using a secure connection when sending data. You also don’t know if they are in the presence of others when accessing sensitive information.
This uncertainty and inability to control devices are one of the biggest concerns for organizations.
On the one hand, employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy on their own devices. But on the other hand, businesses have a right to know how their data is being used and accessed at all times.
It’s up to organizations to decide how to govern device use in the workplace, regardless of who owns the device. But treading the line between business and personal needs is a delicate act.
Whatever policies you design should be careful not to violate any personal rights, while also ensuring you aren’t leaving your company vulnerable to data misuse.
2. You Don’t Know Which Apps Can Be Trusted
One of the biggest barriers to a secure Bring Your Own Device environment is the inability to control the apps on every device. Because devices are user-owned rather than company-owned, companies are unable to dictate which apps they will allow on devices.
Given the sheer number of apps available for iOS and Android alike, this factor alone poses a huge security risk.
Not all apps are as safe as they appear to be. Some are designed specifically as malware to take over a user’s phone, but their harm isn’t always immediately recognized.
In some cases, your user’s app is actually collecting or erasing data from the device. If your employee has a sketchy app on their phone, your company’s data could be at risk.
Training your employees on best app practices can help to reduce this risk. You can recommend downloading apps only from trusted content stores like Google Play or the Apple Store.
But ultimately, it’s up to each user to decide which apps they want, which is why this risk may be impossible to completely eliminate.
3. Device Security Is Unpredictable
Data security was difficult enough when it was being accessed from company-approved devices. Most companies invest in particular brands or systems to ensure as cohesive an experience as possible.
When users are allowed to bring their own devices, security is exponentially complicated.
Not only are you faced with a variety of manufacturers, but you must also consider the versions of each OS.
Not everyone upgrades to the latest software as soon as it’s available. This could leave their device vulnerable to known security issues.
4. You Don’t Have a BYOD Security Policy
One of the most overlooked opportunities to strengthen the BYOD environment is also 100% avoidable.
Company policies are ever-evolving, and procedures regarding technology are no exception. Companies who are part of the BYOD movement should be specific on how devices can be used for work.
How and when can data be accessed? What types of data can be accessed? How can the data be used, and what is required of the user to obtain the data from their own devices?
Policies should extend to IT admins to ensure their infrastructure can help to maintain network security. For example, you might indicate the requirement for location tracking, real-time security updates, data encryption, the use of a VPN, and two-factor authentication.
Before you hop into designing policies and processes, it’s essential to get stakeholder buy-in to support your initiatives. Gaining insight from multiple departments and how they use digital devices can help you create stronger, more comprehensive approaches to the BYOD movement.
5. You Don’t Train Your People on Device Security
It isn’t enough to simply have written policies in place. Your employees will hold the majority of the burden of securing their devices, and they should understand the risks and implications they face.
Going over the policies in depth and getting signatures is a start. But companies can take it a step further by holding training sessions and explaining how quickly the risks can surmount and affect the organization.
Training should address the specific use cases of personal devices and the potential consequences of mishandling data.
Also, let employees know what they should do in the event of device loss or job termination. Set your expectations up front regarding personal device use in the workplace and how you plan to hold each employee accountable.
Ensuring your own people understand their role can help you mitigate risk while reaping the benefits of the BYOD movement.
How to Mitigate BYOD Security Risks for a Healthy Digital Environment
Keep in mind the above list isn’t comprehensive. Companies should do their due diligence in determining all BYOD security risks within their unique organization.
The more you can put risks into perspective, the better you can determine if a BYOD environment can help you become profitable or vulnerable.
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