What happens when employees connect to company networks on their own devices?
Smartphones and tablets are everywhere. People are spending more and more money to have the latest smart devices, and employers are struggling to keep up with employees' demands for the latest technology.
Not surprisingly, companies have realized there is a less expensive way to deploy the latest technology: increasingly they are allowing employees to connect to corporate networks from the devices they own. This phenomenon has become known as bring your own device, or BYOD.
The benefits of BYOD are obvious: companies spend less on equipment, employees can use their preferred devices, and they need only have one of each (I remember carrying two phones for awhile—one for work and one personal—it was a nightmare).
Surveys have shown BYOD helps employees work faster and smarter, making them more efficient and raising their overall effectiveness. BYOD is also believed to raise workplace satisfaction because employees get to work on the devices they are most comfortable with, eliminating the need for training on multiple operating systems or programs.
But with these benefits come some major risks.
Data loss is the most significant risk to companies that implement BYOD programs. By relinquishing some control and allowing devices from "the wild" to access internal networks, companies place their information systems and sensitive data at greater risk.
Implementing a BYOD program means the company's network will be accessed by a wide array of devices from open Internet connections (think Starbucks). These devices will have different software, different apps and, most scary of all, different owners accessing different files from different places. Human error remains the single-biggest threat to information security.
To protect their networks from all these new dangers, companies will have to implement comprehensive BYOD security programs that include strong policies and governance rules. These rules and procedures will have to be clear and concise, easy to follow and transparent so that employees will not resist them.
Companies also will have to invest in technology to monitor and secure their networks and all the new devices accessing their information. Many companies are turning to mobile device management, or MDM, solutions to help safeguard their information.
MDM software works by enforcing security rules and protocols on all the devices that access the company's network. For MDM to work effectively, the software must be installed on every single device that accesses the network.