It’s likely that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will become the default in the business world throughout this year. BYOD means employees using personal devices such as laptops or smartphones for work purposes.
This contrasts with a traditional model in which employees are strictly required to use devices owned by their employer and managed by the IT department.
BYOD and Cybersecurity Risks: What to Know
While there are benefits of BYOD, including the fact that employees prefer it and it tends to be in line with the move to remote work, there are also downsides.
The biggest risks are often related to cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. Below, we talk more about BYOD and also, more specifically, cybersecurity risks it can create.
BYOD is a trend in which employees connect to work-related systems and networks, including possibly sensitive or confidential data using their personal devices. Along with laptops and smartphones, personal devices might also include USB drives and tablets.
As more companies are supporting work-from-home and remote work, as well as flexibility in schedules, employees increasingly need to be able to connect wherever they are, seamlessly and conveniently.
Some companies allow BYOD explicitly, and others refer to it as shadow IT. Shadow IT is software or hardware IT doesn’t support.
Security is an important topic for leaders because personal devices, when not addressed by IT, can create serious security challenges.
One area of vulnerability that organizations need to address is patch management. There are often small software fixes that are an important part of IT infrastructure management.
If these small fixes aren’t done appropriately, they can lead to big issues. As corporate systems diversify through remote devices and BYOD, the risks of improperly managed patch management are growing.
One solution available to deal with this particular cybersecurity issue is cloud patch management, which automates it and checks for updates and future releases.
Lost or Stolen Devices
When employees work in a traditional on-premises environment, there’s a pretty low overall risk of a lost or stolen device. Now that employees are working from anywhere, that risk has gone up substantially.
If an employee doesn’t follow security protocols and a device is lost, it could create a major breach for the employer.
The employee might be storing their passwords in an unsecured way on the device, for example.
Mobile device management or MDM is one solution to this. With MDM, companies can remotely wipe devices before hackers can access data. The problem here becomes employee privacy, which is something every employer has to balance when allowing BYOD policies.
Malware can infect smartphones and other devices in addition to impacting laptops.
Many employees have malware programs installed on their personal computers, but they’re much less mindful of their smartphones. Employees may download content on their phones or new apps without thinking about cybersecurity.
Operating an outdated operating system can also be a big risk factor for malware.
Your employees need to have stringent policies they’re required to follow to keep software up to date. There should be limits on the apps an employee can download if they’re using their device for work as well as personally.
Your policies should outline what apps employees are allowed to download and the protocols for doing so.
Anytime your employees are logging onto an unsecured network, such as the free Wi-Fi available at their local coffee shop, it can be putting the entire organization and all of your data at risk.
Hackers can intercept traffic going to and coming from any device your employee might be using on an unsecured network, meaning they can then infiltrate all of your systems.
To avoid this risk or at least reduce it, you should consider the use of identity and access management solutions. In the past, there was a lot of focus on using a VPN, but that’s not the optimal solution for today’s environment.
Lack of Oversight
The biggest overall risk to BYOD is that there’s a lack of IT oversight. With BYOD implementation, your IT support team isn’t able to monitor activities unless you take steps to make sure they can.
You should put in place procedures and use the appropriate tools the verify that security solutions are being used across all devices that access company data.
Before you implement BYOD on a large scale, you should have protocols for identifying and enforcing policies that relate to evaluating the risk of certain apps.
Once you have systems and protocols in place, you need to remember ongoing employee education too.