Improve BYOD security with these tips
BYOD started becoming big over the last few years, and soon enough, businesses around the world realized that new policies are needed to protect themselves, as well as their employees.
But, before we go into how to strengthen your BYOD security, we should first explain what it is, and why there are concerns about it.
What is BYOD?
Let’s start what BYOD is, in the first place.
BYOD stands for ‘Bring Your Own Device,’ and it is a policy that allows company employees to do their work on their own devices, which they can bring to work. BYOD has grown to be common in customer-oriented workplaces, but it also spread across countless industries.
Some estimates say that about 60% of employees around the world are currently using their own devices for work. This is hardly surprising, considering that there are quite a few benefits to approaching work through your personal device. These benefits include:
Increased productivity due to the use of more familiar tools
Increased employee satisfaction
Increased appeal to younger employees
Reduced cost for the company, as it doesn’t have to acquire equipment
Better mobility, as employees can work from any place, as long as they have their device with them
Now, while there are quite a few benefits to this approach, there are also some downsides and concerns in regards to BYOD, primarily when it comes to information security.
Concerns regarding BYOD
BYOD comes with quite a few challenges and concerns, as mentioned, with some of the main ones being:
- Personal devices are often not properly secured, which leads to data breaches
- Computer and data exposure to friends, family, and even strangers
- IT staff challenges, such as system integrations
- Mobility concerns, such as the use of unsecured Wi-Fi networks
Two other issues that stand out include:
1) Complexity and fragmentation
One of the more serious challenges when it comes to BYOD adoption is security, which is followed quite closely by compliance problems. Security is of dire importance for any business, and ignoring it is just about the worst thing that a business can do.
If the employee happens to use enterprise apps on their own mobile devices, that could easily lead to data leakage, connectivity problems, and alike. The fragmentation of the mobile OS market is not helping the matter, either. With the release cycle of OSs dropping down to mere months, the pace is extremely quick and it is a nightmare for IT departments.
2) Policy adoption is uneven
Another big challenge regarding BYOD policies is that businesses often lack them entirely. According to researchers, it is believed that only around 39% of organizations have a BYOD policy in place. 20% of employees are not sure whether there is such a policy in the company they work for, but they still use their own devices.
What can you do?
This is clearly an issue and a threat to employee and company security and privacy, which is why we have some suggestions on how companies can ensure that they will properly tackle the issue. With 2020 approaching, we can expect that online threats to businesses will only continue to grow, as they did in years prior. So, here is what you can do to improve your firm’s BYOD situation.
1. Create a BYOD policy
The first thing for any business to do is to create their BYOD policy. Building a sensible BYOD usage, management, and security rules is of utmost importance. However, it needs to be strong, meet the needs and expectations of the company, but also its end users.
Basically, the policy needs to be strong enough to protect the company and its employees, but also loose enough to allow the employees to do their jobs.
2. Strengthen your existing BYOD policy
If you are among businesses that already have a working BYOD policy, but you feel like it is not good enough, we also have some advice regarding what you might do to make it better. Start by:
- Asking your employees to protect their devices with passwords
- Control connectivity to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices — both should be turned off when the device is not being used
- Control app permissions, and only provide those that are absolutely necessary for the app to function properly
- OS and software must always be up to date
- Require employees to do regular backups
- Enroll all of the devices in a device locator, as well as remote wipe service, in case of theft
- Insist that your employees never store financial information on the device
- Instruct your employees to avoid free apps, even if they include anti-virus software
- Add premium anti-virus software on all devices
- Secure devices through mobile device management software
- Set up a separate network for employee devices
3. Flexibility is the key
Another thing that you need to remember to do is to remain flexible. If you are thinking of adopting a BYOD program, you should think of security, but you must always remember that such devices need to remain open and capable of supporting a wide ecosystem of various applications
Basically, do not limit your employees completely — instead, make sure that they have access to various applications that will be easy to use, and allow the employees to be more productive during their working hours.
4. Use a different network for employee devices
We have mentioned this already, but since it is a very good idea, we believe that it deserves to be on the list.
Basically, the main reason why employees want to use their own devices in the office and work on them is that they can use the office’s Wi-Fi and not spend their data plans in a day or two. Naturally, you need to allow this, as the internet connection is pretty much crucial for most business-related tasks.
The entire BYOD culture pretty much started because people used their personal devices — such as their phones — at work for things that were not work-related. When their breaks were over, and they returned to work, they simply continued using the same device for work. It is practical, they are familiar with the device and its features, and it makes them happy and more productive.
However, the issue was that this approach started posing a security risk, as business-critical operations, as well as those that are not business-critical, are performed on the same network. This issue can be tackled relatively easily by simply installing a different Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and other non-critical business processes.
It might seem like an extra cost, but doing so is actually quite affordable. Meanwhile, it will not only increase your firm’s security but also your employees’ productivity and generall happiness within the work environment.
5. Staff education
We cannot stress the importance of this step enough. Every business’s weakest point is its staff, as hackers became masters of tricking and manipulating people into getting them access into companies’ systems.
Of course, these are not considered inside jobs; employees are simply prone to making mistakes as security awareness is not nearly as good as you might expect it to be. Employees may come to work with their devices infected by viruses or malware, and they likely don’t even know about it. As soon as they connect to the company’s network, that malware would be granted free access to jump between other devices connected to the same network.
Fortunately, this can be easily prevented simply by educating your employees about proper safety measures for their devices. Teach them how to spot unsafe apps, how to scan for malware, and emphasize the importance of updating software regularly.
In addition, you can always contact IT experts and ask for recommendations in terms of spyware scanners, antimalware software, VPN recommendations, and other security technologies. In fact, you should probably:
6. Partner up with IT experts
While educating your employees is a great way to increase protection, it may not be enough. Online threats are evolving at an amazing speed, and sometimes, even security experts have trouble remaining up to date with all the new dangers that hackers are managing to invent.
Training your employees in an online security area has its limits, and while it will protect your business from a simple phishing attack, some more advanced threats require a partnership with experts. That is why you should consider collaborating with an IT partner that can keep track of all the new hacking trends, as well as modern solutions that would stand in their way.
Do not risk your entire business by hoping that hackers would decide to bypass you. Regardless of the size of your business, you will always be a valid target for those looking to steal money, data, and your company’s secrets. Always plan for the worst, as that is the only way to truly remain safe.
BYOD is here to stay, as technology’s advancements made devices smaller, portable, and rich with features. It used to be that a personal device is a full-size desktop, and that was not so easy to carry around. With smartphones, tablets, laptops, and alike becoming common devices that pretty much everyone has, employees would keep bringing them and using them even in the office.
Do not fight against the trend, as embracing it can be beneficial to your business. However, you must also be aware of the security issues that come with this culture, and see to it that your business and employees alike are protected adequately. Follow these steps, and you will make a difference. Ignore them, and you might be the next victim of cybercriminals.