Protect yourself by minimizing potential problems associated with your company’s bring-your-own-device policy.
By Brittany Shoot
Bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, has become a workplace trend in recent years, allowing employees to use their own laptops, tablets, and cell phones to conduct company business.
While it may seem easier to rely on individuals to supply their own technology solutions and equipment, it can also cause problems for employers who fail to take steps to protect themselves.
“It’s only begun in terms of how mobility is changing how we all work and live. Central to mobility is the issue of security and having these devices securely managed,” says Laura Stuart, a Greenwich, Conn.-based independent analyst, who recently spoke in a webinar on the topic.
For his part, Matt Girvan, a Truckee, Calif.-based business consultant and co-founder of his own startup company, MyGungHo, says companies should avoid allowing employees to use their own devices except when absolutely necessary.
Here are three risks associated with BYOD policies, and some solutions that can help small- and medium-sized business owners maintain control over data and workplace culture.
The risk: Information stored on an employee’s personal device is at risk of theft or loss. Sensitive data might be exposed—along with your company’s bottom line.
The solution: Ask employees to enable passwords for all of their devices. You can even require that employees use a password manager that locks every individual password behind a longer, stronger master password, Girvan says. Employees should also be encouraged to only use their own devices when absolutely necessary to help sidestep additional security risks.
Also, there are top-level solutions to consider, Stuart says.
“Combined master data management and mobile application management services enable small businesses to protect company data and applications, without needing to risk intruding on (such as wiping) employees’ personal use of their smartphones,” she says.
That is, with mobile application management, “We don’t have to wipe everything clean. We can just wipe the corporate data,” Stuart says.
It’s also important to limit the amount of company data that resides on these devices, she says. One way to accomplish that: Offer content management services “that are so easy to use that employees won’t be tempted to save their work elsewhere,” Stuart says.
The risk: Employees who use their own devices at work might build up a large contact list on that device or through personal emails. Those contacts, as well as confidential documents, might be lost if that employee leaves the company.
That employee “might even choose to compete with you, and you may have no idea of how to contact the folks that were a key part of your business,” Girvan says.
The solution: Running automatic system backups and keeping office documents in the cloud can help avoid this sort of situation, Girvan says. When an employee connects a personal device to the office wireless Internet, for example, have a system in place to automatically sync files to a central cloud-based server.
That way, all employees share the same contacts list and company-wide information database. No one has leverage or additional files that other employees can’t access. As Stuart noted, using MDM/MAM tools is a crucial consideration for small-business owners.
Plus, she says, a key point for business owners is “really recognizing how much more security does come from SaaS and cloud-based delivery of services.”
The risk: If an employee damages her equipment on your property, you may be liable and have to pay for it.
The solution: Girvan suggests asking employees to sign a liability release so you won’t be responsible if they break their own devices while at the office.
Also, he says, if employees must use their own devices, encourage them to work at home. “Using their own equipment in their own home is much less of a liability than having them bring it to an office.”
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