Is BYOD a Risk to Business Security?

How often do you check your smartphone during the day? Chances are you have it in your pocket or bag during your commute, on your desk at work and on your nightstand when you hit the hay. As more office workers carry these sophisticated devices, it makes sense for businesses to implement policies around Bring Your Own Device – or BYOD.

As soon as you introduce unknown devices, staff in charge of compliance will get nervous very quickly. How do you control what’s sent and received over devices you have no control over at all?

BYOD

BYOD and Security

BYOD (and BYOC – Bring Your Own Computer) essentially allows an employee to use their personal electronic devices in a controlled and authorized way. Both BYOD and BYOC have been developed in response to the inevitable prevalence of mobile devices in the workplace.

Naturally, there are downsides:

  • Putting work data on mobile devices is risky if the device is lost or stolen.
  • It’s difficult for businesses to enforce security policies on most mobile devices.
  • The business can also lose visibility of important file transfers, meaning it cannot obtain any insight into the way data is being used.
  • Accidental data leakage becomes increasingly likely.

A good example is the use of a personal email account. If the business’ own email server cannot cope with the size of a file attachment, for example, it becomes logical for the employee to use their personal email account to get the job done.

Research by Mimecast suggests that 79 per cent of respondents have already used a service like Gmail for work correspondence. These risks are real; they are out there, and problems are only going to become more likely.

Benefits of BYOD

Businesses really benefit from these policies. By allowing employees to use their own equipment, productivity is far higher. They have the devices on them all the time, so there is no such thing as a ‘work phone’ that is forgotten at the back of a drawer.

Additionally, the business saves a great deal of money buying expensive devices for employees. These devices are never truly used to their full potential if the employee has a more recent, preferred device in their pocket already.

Weighing It Up

When looking at the facts, it’s important to remember that services and devices are separate.

BYOD is a creative solution to a very modern business challenge. It helps businesses to cut costs while giving employees what they want: use of their own devices at work. And while loss and theft is always a possibility, devices can be tracked via GPS (using something like Apple’s iCloud), or secured using passcodes, passphrases and even fingerprint recognition.

At the same time, there are other risks from the use of third party services. These are the risks that are more likely to be worrisome from a compliance point of view. The business can mitigate these risks by introducing powerful cloud storage and cloud email solutions (such as Mimecast’s) that avoid the need for workarounds – thus making it less likely that their employees will resort to the use of third party services.

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