With the impact of tech-savvy Generation Y on the workforce, and growing advantages to remote and mobile employees, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are transforming business. However, the transition from company-supplied devices to dependence on the devices of workers creates headaches for IT teams and CEOs over issues like security and data loss.
BYOD does have its advantages. Utilizing employee devices saves your company money on hardware and software purchasing. It’s also more convenient and personalized for employees, leading to a more satisfying job experience and greater productivity and loyalty.
But BYOD requires new approaches to bring it into alignment with traditional IT strategies. Steady growth in mobile technology sales and networks has transformed consumerism so that mobile workers can interact readily with corporate apps and databases from anywhere.
This provides more tools and much more accessibility for remote workers. Businesses can count on communicating and sharing with their mobile workforce. But it does raise exposure to hackers, malware, and other security risks.
However, there are some steps you can take to implement a more secure BYOD environment.
Educate Your Employees
One of the chief concerns to mobile network usage are careless employees who don’t follow basic security measures for their own devices. Uninformed employees are also more likely to fall prey to fraudulent emails and online scams. This is why it is crucial to educate your employees about online threats and teach them how to prevent cyber-attacks.
Your staff needs to know that hackers can monitor basic browser activity and find ways to trick users into divulging sensitive information. For example, accessing questionable websites or clicking suspicious links in emails can introduce malware to their devices that can be passed on to the corporate infrastructure. Such links can also lead your employees to phishing websites that look like the real thing. They are designed in order to steal sensitive information by requesting users to sign in with their user name and passwords.
Train your employees to recognize potentially malicious emails and websites, and to report any suspicious activity to the IT department. Also, implementing a cyber-security policy that requires users to use strong passwords and to change them often will give hackers a minimal window of opportunity.
Ensure All Devices Are Protected
Increasing reliance on mobile technology raises the risk of data loss, security breaches, and malware. This puts an added burden on IT staff to secure systems and devices. Smartphone and tablets accessing the corporate network need the same level of security as internal workstations.
Even failure to install the latest software updates increases the vulnerability to cyber-attacks. This means that known security issues could be in place for a prolonged period. Employees who don’t have updated firewalls or anti-virus protection on their devices create an additional risk to the corporate network and must be addressed.
Prevent Accidental Data Leaks
Not all apps are designed with security as a priority. Even downloads from the App Store or Google Play can’t be considered 100 percent safe. They can store or transmit data in ways that leave it exposed to cyber-attacks.
IT departments find it almost impossible to keep up with the apps users install on their personal devices, especially if users themselves lose track. Fortunately there are ESS (endpoint security solutions) and MDM (mobile device management) systems that can monitor app interfaces to keep network teams informed on what applications are being used.
Users can also risk data exposure over public Wi-Fi networks offered by many establishments they frequent, such as airport terminals, hotels, and even local stores or the gym. Laptops and tablets are often configured to connect automatically with local networks. Hackers monitoring these unsecured networks can intercept the user credentials used to connect to other systems.
To counter this risk, your company should provide a VPN (virtual private network) to ensure that all communication is encrypted and each user is uniquely identified by hidden keys as well as other means of authentication.
Set Up Remote Wipe Policies
Devices that are lost or stolen can also be a major security risk. Knowledgeable cyber criminals can log on to the device and gain immediate access to sensitive data. It’s important that all connections involve the latest encryption and credentialing techniques to reduce this risk.
Many companies choose to employ remote wipe software that will immediately erase any corporate files from devices that are reported stolen, including emails and contact lists. The company then has the chance to protect its own data without having to seek user permission to access the device. One way to promote safe data use is to encourage mobile users to protect all files and messaging with multiple levels of security, such as PIN numbers as well as strong passwords.
Wrapping It Up
BYOD policies can provide much greater flexibility to your company by allowing workers to connect anytime, and from anywhere. However, this also provides greater security risks if employees don’t take all measures to ensure that their own devices are safeguarded. This includes installing and updating security software, using strong passwords, and security-conscious best practices. Potential risks shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to BYOD policies, but as reminders of important processes to have in place before your employees can use their own devices to full business advantage.