July 20, 2012

Embrace BYOD In Your Organization

The future of mobile computing was foreshadowed in science fiction and comic strips years ago. In 1946, when Dick Tracy talked into his 2-Way Wrist Radio, who would have imagined only a few decades later we would be teleconferencing on our smartphones? We have since caught up and exceeded those dreams. Books have been replaced by tablet computers. Phone calls have been replaced by emails and text messages. The briefcase has been replaced by the laptop or smartphone. Employees are bringing their personal smartphones and laptops to work and we are now traveling through unknown territory with hidden opportunity and challenges.

The Bring Your Own Device Evolution
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work is not a new concept, but we are now faced with dealing with the growing risks associated with BYOD. Organizations should not fear the BYOD evolution but more importantly embrace it by accepting personal devices into the organizations. Even though there are a few risks associated with BYOD, they can easily be mitigated. Policies should be updated to reflect the new era and employees should be trained to manage and protect company data. The best method for protected company data is by preventing the data from leaving the trusted network and devices. BYOD can be a great benefit to any organization with the implementation of proper precautions.

Embrace BYOD and Improve Your Workforce
Organizations should gladly embrace mobile computing as it increases efficiency and effectiveness of their workforces. Mobile device management (MDM) solutions have been created to allow organizations to protect mobile data. Network administrators can now manage company data on mobile devices. With the implementation of an MDM solution, administrators can remotely wipe data from a lost or stolen smartphone. A thief will have less of a chance to steal company data from a mobile device. It is highly recommended for any organization with mobile staff to implement a MDM solution to help protect mobile data and devices.

Risks Associated with BYOD
Mobility in the workplace has changed our lives on all levels. Mobile devices, such as laptops and smartphones, are being used by the majority of the workforce for tasks that were previously only done on desktops. Many of the mobile devices in the modern workplace are personal devices brought in by the employees. Data is leaving our networks with mostly good intentions. Data leaving the network has most CIO’s lying awake at night worrying about the data leakage. The key risks we face in this new era of BYOD are:

  • Lost and stolen mobile devices
  • Lost or stolen data
  • Lack of compliance with security regulations
  • Document leakage
  • Unmanaged devices
  • Device management on work networks

Old Rules Still Apply
Times have changed, but let’s forget about the technologies and think about the rules and regulations. Employees must follow an improved set of rules regarding the data they are entrusted to protect. Just as we did many years ago with our briefcases, we must protect the company documents when they leave the building. Some examples of best practices are:

  • An employee should not email work documents to their personal email account.
  • An employee should only be working on company documents in a secure environment. Confidentiality, availability, and integrity can all be maintained in these environments.
  • An employee should not use portable electronic storage devices or any other means to physically transport company data from our of the company’s network, unless it is authorized by the organization.
  • An employee should not store company data using cloud services such as Google Docs or Dropbox unless of course it is approved by the organization.

It is unfortunate, but many organizations can no longer trust their employees to follow these best practices. To make even more unfair, it is safe to say that the even the greatest of policies will not stop a disgruntled employee from malicious activity.

Mitigate the Risks
The best solution for BYOD is to control the data. Managing the devices is a good line of defense, but what about devices that are outdated and cannot be managed. What about documents leaving the network via cloud services and email? Data Loss Prevention (DLP) mechanisms have been created to deal with these sorts of issues.

Data loss prevention systems are designed to detect potential data breach incidents and prevent them by monitoring data in-use, in-motion, and at-rest. When data has been properly tagged in a DLP environment a user must have certain privileges granted to them or the file when editing, copying, deleting, and reading. For example data will no longer be allowed to leave the network and live in the cloud without authorization first. The cost to implement such a system is minor in comparison to the possibilities a data breach may bring. Imagine if patent drawings to the one product your company makes were stolen. A data breach of that magnitude could be devastating to the lifeline of your organization.

The best way to deal with BYOD in your organization is to accept it. Symantec performed a survey which found that 73% of respondents expected to increase efficiency through mobile computing, and all of them did realize that increased efficiency. By following the guidelines above and implementing some or all of the solutions aforementioned, your organization will be better prepared for this evolving BYOD workforce.