Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Security Risks & Complications

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Security Risks & Complications
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Issues with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement started with the portable laptop and catapulted into popularity with the introduction of Smartphones, iPads and tablets. The idea behind it is that workers bring their own device into work, rather than choose one of the company offerings. This has the potential to be a win-win scenario. Companies save money on buying products for their employees, and the employees get the freedom to choose the device that they actually want to use.

However, there are some concerns with the movement. Companies that aren’t already dealing with the various issues associated with BYOD will have to soon. Michael Hugos, an IT specialist who has worked with entities such as Microsoft, Starbucks, and the US Navy says, “… employees have spoken. They’ve made it clear they can buy their own stuff. They don’t need standard company-issued technology anymore … They use what they want.”

Pros & Cons

First, the positives: BYOD definitely saves the company a lot of money in hardware and training. Employees are more comfortable using their own customized devices and are less likely to bog down IT with minor issues. BYOD also enables employees to work from anywhere at any time, so some companies are reporting increased productivity. Employees that use BYOD have expressed greater overall job satisfaction.

On the flip side, however, the devices that employees use for work are usually used for other, non work-related activities as well. Some let their kids play on it. Some download questionable apps or visit questionable websites. Every time an employee uses that device for something other than work, the company runs the risk of bringing a virus into the system and compromising data. Some companies experience fracturing in the office because employees can work elsewhere, like from home.

Side Effects & Issues

Now for the complicated side. There are other interesting issues that BYOD brings to the workplace:

1) Retention of Talent: Companies that are trying to be technology and idea leaders want to hire the best candidates. Tech-savvy younger candidates will actually choose one company over another based on the technology and flexibility the company offers.

2) Purchase Your Own Device: To find a compromise, some companies have started to institute PYOD, which allows employees to purchase big-discount devices from a vetted list. These devices might have pre-installed virus protectors, company-approved apps and app filters.

3) IT Faces More Security Issues: This is a difficult issue. Companies have to rely more heavily on IT for bigger security issues that come about with employee’s devices. The chances of a security breach increase substantially here. Expenses also increase considerably to manage data retention and risk avoidance. Every machine associated with the company is at risk to both add a problem and spread a problem.

4) Legal Implications: This is another big and complicated topic. The mix of personal employee information and company information on that employee’s device creates potentially serious issues if the employee is accessing the company’s cloud/server. Loss or breach of certain types of data, such as information protected by HIPAA in the healthcare field, can create liability and expense for the company. Also, valuable company information on personal devices may be lost if the device is lost.

A recent Gartner survey revealed that 68% of corporations were very/extremely concerned when thinking about securing their data on employee mobile devices. Companies not enabling BYOD (or PYOD) will be forced to capitulate soon and should definitely consider implementing policies. BYOD brings a multitude of good, bad and complicated issues that should be addressed by each company.