How to fix the BYOD security issues in the workplace

Pierluigi Paganini February 02, 2013

Bring your own device (BYOD) is starting to take off in the workplace, as an increasing number of businesses encourage their employees to use smart phones, tablets or laptops to save costs and to allow their employees to work from any location. Unfortunately, as with all new technologies, there are also a number of risks in the form of security breaches, and IT managers are currently fighting a complicated battle to reduce those risks.

In the past, IT managers were able to block BYOD, because there were only a few employees who were able to afford the devices. Now, the growth of tablet devices into the corporate environment – UK tablet sales to corporate buyers outstripped those to consumers in 2012 –means they’re a persistent and common problem.

Additionally the demand is not just at an employee level, it’s also coming from the C-level. A 2012 survey by website Computer Reseller News found that some three-quarters of directors favour getting their critical board papers in electronic format. The consequence of this rise in tablet use means that IT managers have no choice other than accepting BYOD and all of the risks that go with it.

Unfortunately, while the number of BYOD devices increases, the number of possible threats that can adversely affect the business is also increasing. Some 50% of businesses have already experienced a data breach due to personalised devices accessing their data. And with devices increasingly being used to access board-level business-critical data, the risks are amplified even more.

The risks include open WiFi connections, a lack of security passcodes on the devices, and good old fashioned loss and theft. A recent Ponemon survey 2012 Patient Privacy & Data Security found that the risks from data went up to 24% from 21% on smartphone, and up to 18% from 7% on tablets. Compared to that of a laptop or desktop diminishing from 43% to 38%.

Security Risks and How to Safeguard Your Business

While things sound gloomy there are solutions to most of the BYOD security problems and many are just a matter of implementing and enforcing policies. While you may think it goes without saying to secure unauthorised areas of your data with passwords the message probably isn’t apparent to your workforce.

In order to minimise the risk, your business needs to:

  • Have guidelines set on how mobile devices can be used on or off premises
  • Enforce the use of passwords (users need to be educated to choose strong and effective passwords too)
  • Use mobile-specific ant-virus and anti-malware programs. This needs to be kept up-to-date.

One of the biggest concerns that business has with the BYOD trend is of devices being lost, stolen or taken by an employee who no longer works for the company. The 2013 state of Endpoint Security survey by the Ponemon institute found that 80% of those surveyed were worried that laptops and other mobile data devices posed a significant security risk to their organisations because they are not secure. Yet, only 13% say they use stricter security standards for employees’ personal devices rather than for corporate-owned devices.

To minimise the risk of data loss caused by these situations, IT departments should use mobile device management software. The software not only makes sure that data protection is enforced on the device, it also maintains the devices so all patches are added and updates are made when they’re available. Additionally, they’re also able to perform a remote wipe if the device is lost or stolen or an employee leaves the company.

No matter what opinion you have about BYOD in the workplace, it is on the rise. Secure your business by implementing basic security measures such as encryption and passcodes, and make sure your IT teams are kept up-to-date with the threats and the solutions.

BYOD is here, so make sure you’re prepared.

Author Bio: Marcus Austin works for Firebrand Training as a Technical Writer. Marcus has over 25 years’ experience in the technology and business sector. His recent work includes constructing a mobile strategy for the Guardian Media Group, together with writing and editing for magazines and websites including TechRadar, Internet Retailing, IT Perspectives, and Santander Breakthrough.

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