Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), future or fad?

In fact, the phenomenon of BYOD is fast going full circle as IT departments now deem the idea a security threat due to employees taking advantage of the unrestricted freedom of using mobile and cloud apps without the company having any control of how or where is data is stored, accessed and used. 

Data security is hugely overlooked by many companies and employees the world over, as many people believe that their storage is automatically secure, without checking the location where it is held or the level of authentication to access their data. 

However, the problem with using employees’ own devices is not just that the storage of information could become vulnerable. Other issues for companies of late have been the use of apps or links that make the phone or the tablet more vulnerable to hackers, therefore increasing the likelihood of data leakage and the loss of information about your business, your clients, your employees and other sensitive details. Certain celebrities have found this to their cost when personal photographs were published from their cloud storage due to this kind of vulnerability.

It’s also not just the companies that have security fears over BYOD; employees are well within their rights to be concerned as well. One way of gaining the flexibility of BYOD without losing control of company data is for the company to secure these personal devices, which ultimately makes them accessible by the company. To many employees the thought of their employer gaining access to their personal data is uncomfortable. The blurring of personal and business use raises interesting questions regarding control.

While some of these fears may be far-fetched, once a device is unsecured it is possible to do almost anything with it, and a survey recently conducted found that over 30 per cent of people who use their own devices for work have no security features enabled on it. And from the 70 per cent who did have security features enabled, that security was only the four digit password that is offered with the mobile phone.

These statistics make BYOD seem like a dangerous idea, as employees are carrying around with them the latent ability to hack into a company’s sensitive information just at the touch of a button. With applications such as company email, log-in information for the corporate network and proprietary data, once one of these devices falls into the wrong hands a company would have to work very hard and very fast in order to prevent harm. 

The first time a company thought about allowing employees to use the devices that they already owned and loved for work purposes, as well as personal use, the advantages seemed tantamount for all involved. Employees’ satisfaction levels increased, thanks to their more flexible working conditions, and with it their productivity. Companies were happy too. BYOD automatically brought cost savings and increased productivity meant a more efficient workforce, happy clients and profit. 

However there was a downside. While it seemed like BYOD was a happy playground that we could all enjoy, the truth is the concept is turning back around as we discover the complications and negative effects of the use of employees’ own devices for business. For companies problems lie with control over what level of data is accessed on these devices, and the issues around forcing any kind of sanction or restriction on employees’ use of their own devices. The original convenience has been replaced with complexity. 

The biggest risk in rolling out BYOD is for companies to do so without having any kind of policy in place beforehand. A BYOD policy is up to the business, but data and the device should both be secured so that you and your employees are free from all worries. One simple way of doing this is to look at having connectivity specifically set up for mobile devices, distinct from the corporate LAN, alongside a strict policy on the use of company data. It just requires careful thought. BYOD should be a convenience, flexible and hassle free.

Sonia Blizzard is MD of Beaming.

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