BYOD Abounds – Can the Enterprise Flourish in this Environment?

By Amine Mekkaoui,

  Filed under: Risk Management and Information Security Blog
  Comments: None

Mobility is the trend of the new generation. Increased access to tablets, smartphones, robust data networks and even Wi-Fi everywhere has extended the capabilities of the professional in the field. When the BlackBerry first emerged on the market, the enterprise acquired, provisioned and controlled the mobile device for the workforce, enabling access to key applications and information, while also monitoring activity.

The demand for increased mobility has spurred a new phenomenon – BYOD. Employees are opting for the Bring Your Own Device to work strategy, balancing personal and professional conversations and information on the same device. The BlackBerry is no longer the smartphone of choice as the iPhone and Android dominate the market. BYOD has proven to be an effective strategy with the right policy in place, but how can it truly support the initiatives of the enterprise?

There are a few realities that accompany the adoption of BYOD:

Employees select the brand and type of device – while employees enjoy the freedom of selecting their own preferred brand and operating system, enterprise IT recognize the different challenges working in varied environments. It may be more effective for the corporate policy to allow BYOD to only include selected, approved brands, models and operating systems.

Employees control the level of personal information contained on the device – this is an important point if there is no separation between personal and corporate information. For example, if baby pictures are mixed with corporate or customers proprietary information, that’s a problem. Employees should be allowed to load their own information on their own device, but it’s up to IT to provide the technology and information to keep personal and professional information separated on the device with the application of mobile applications.

Employees access websites, applications and file sharing services not normally permitted by the enterprise – this is a critical threat for any network. Users may be accessing a vulnerable hotspot, uploading information to a file share site lacking the appropriate protections or downloading applications with malicious software. The enterprise BYOD policy should include guidelines to acceptable practices and mobile device management applications can be installed that prevent risky activities. The key to the successful application is to inform employees as to these rules and the consequences if those rules were to be broken.

Employees may allow other people to use their device – this reality is difficult to address from the corporate side. Employees may be educated on the risks involved with allowing other users to access their device, but complete control in this area is difficult. Monitoring and management applications can help control what the individual may do while using the device, however, which is an important step towards protection.

Employees may not demonstrate diligence in keeping track of their device – regardless of how much the employee uses his or her mobile device, it can still be lost or stolen. If that happens, the finder will have access to a wide range of network applications, proprietary information, authentication information and so much more. This is where keeping personal and private information separate is crucial as IT management can remotely wipe the device clean of any information that puts the enterprise at risk. Likewise, the employee can opt to wipe everything if personal information lost will also put them at risk.

While this list just scratches the surface in terms of the realities that can affect BYOD and the enterprise, they are important points to ensure success in this new environment. Any corporation can resist the trend and instead purchase mobile devices for all employees, but that may not always be the optimal choice. By understanding the realities that exist in a BYOD environment, the enterprise is more likely to benefit. 

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