The term BYOD refers to employees using their personal devices for business purposes. This could include editing business documents on a private laptop, connecting to the company network when working remotely, or accessing work emails from smartphones. It’s becoming routine for companies to officially recognize this practice with standardized procedures, but it often occurs under the radar.
Without a strong, centralized BYOD policy, your employees are putting your business’ reputation, information, and long-term success at risk. As the cost of entry to high-end, portable technology is reduced, more consumers have access to technology once reserved for the workplace.
While a healthy BYOD work environment provides a range of benefits – the reduction of equipment costs and improved flexibility in particular – few small business owners are aware of the potential risks it can present.
As the number of businesses targeted for digital attacks continues to rise, creating an effective BYOD policy that protects your company’s data has never been more important. This article will explain the risks of BYOD and provide tips to help keep your data secure.
The Risks of BYOD
Before you begin drafting your company’s policy, identify the type of data that your business considers sensitive, and the risks that may arise when handling this data on unsecured or unknown devices. Outlining these risks is a key first step in directing your policy’s priorities.
When any employee uses their personal device to access or edit company data, they become personally responsible for the security of that data. From the use of public networks to lost devices, there’s a wide range of issues that could put sensitive information at risk:
Downloading unverified applications may result in the device’s security being compromised. Often, apps loaded with malware or extensive permissions disguise themselves as legitimate in order to access a user’s personal data. Ensure your staff are aware of the risks involved in third-party applications.
Unsecured devices – especially those operating on public networks – put your data at risk from malware, phishing scams, content injection, and man in the middle (MITM) attacks.
Devices often shared by friends, partners, or family are much more likely to be lost or vulnerable to data leaks. The influx in multiple types of device across the business may also leave your network at risk, as manufacturers provide security patches at different times. Some types of device are more secure than others, so consider allowing only a select number of approved systems to limit risk.
Misplacing an unprotected device could leave your company’s data in the wrong hands. Ensure everyone using a single device for their work and personal life is capable of performing a remotely wipe and has everything encrypted.
Creating an Effective BYOD Policy
Creating a strong BYOD policy requires accountability and teamwork. This can be aided with the creation of a standardized document to be shared across the entire business.
Establish a strict stance on the use of two-step authentication for all work-related applications, accounts, and devices. Many business data breaches in 2017 were traced back to weak or stolen passwords, so your policy should include the use of random password generators and management applications like LastPass to create and store passwords securely.
Ensure your employees maintain antivirus protection and software updates on all relevant devices. If just one staff member neglects to update their laptop or smartphone, it can jeopardize the security of an entire network. Make sure all employees have automatic updates enabled on all devices.
Discourage employees from using public or free Wi-Fi networks when working remotely.
If one of these networks must be used, make sure a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is utilized to protect the device’s traffic and encrypt any business-related data that could be intercepted in transit.
There are hundreds of VPN services, many of which are unreliable or insecure. Make sure employees have access to a well-reputed provider like the top 10 best VPN services. This will help mitigate the risks of malware, man in the middle (MITM) attacks, and spyware.
As with all strategies, there’s no all-inclusive solution. The most effective policy is one that is tailored to the practices of your particular business.
The benefits of flexible working, using a device that you’re accustomed to, and having remote access to company information are not to be understated.
Despite these advantages, BYOD practices can put vulnerable data at risk, and requires your employees to be responsible for their digital behaviour. One employee unfamiliar with BYOD best practices can open the door to huge damages.
To protect your company, establish a policy that identifies the risks for your specific workplace, determines usage procedures, and outlines a set of clear best practices. Most importantly, ensure every employee is aware of the potential hazards and is accountable for their activity.