Is there a safe way to let employees access corporate data from their own mobile devices? Here are some things to think about

Dark Reading Staff, Dark Reading

September 16, 2013

3 Min Read

[The following is excerpted from "Ten Things to Consider When Developing BYOD Policy," a new report posted this week on Dark Reading's Mobile Security Tech Center.]

BYOD, or bring-your-own-device, is a trend that is not going away. In InformationWeek's 2013 State of Mobile Security report, based on a survey of 424 business technology professionals, 68% of respondents said their mobility policy allows employees to use personal mobile for work, with 20% saying they are developing such a policy.

In fact, BYOD can hardly be called a trend anymore: The model is here to stay in the enterprise, and it's expanding to include all manner of employee-owned technology (including bring your own apps, bring your own private clouds and bring your own WLANs). Organizations, therefore, must do more than just bless the concept; they must proactively set out guidelines that tell users what they can and cannot do, and that describe the role IT will and will not play in the management, support and security of employee-owned devices.

"In today's always-connected society, organizations can no longer let mobile device adoption in the workplace simply run its course," says Steve Durbin, global VP of the nonprofit Information Security Forum.

"By putting the right usage policies in place, businesses can benefit from the returns that mobile devices can bring to the workplace while limiting exposure to potential security risks," Durbin says. "If executed poorly, a personal device strategy in the workplace could face unintentional leaks due to a loss of boundaries between work and personal data and more business information being held in an unprotected manner on consumer devices."

One of the biggest challenges with BYOD is the ambiguity that often surrounds the concept, especially when it comes to security. For example, when the employee owns the device, who owns the data on the device when it's being used to access corporate networks and data? To what extent can IT dictate the level of security an employee-owned device must have?

These are just a few of the questions organizations are dealing with, which is all the more reason for companies to develop a firm policy, says Forrester analyst Christian Kane, whose research is focused on desktop and mobile strategies, including BYOD.

"The biggest reason [to develop BYOD policy] is that there is so much gray area in this topic," says Kane. "Many companies have built their mobile strategies around the fact that they owned the devices and could dictate what happens on them. So a big part of having a BYOD policy in place really has to do with things that are ambiguous: What can I do and what can't I do? What's the right kind of usage, and how does the company feel about that?"

Research from the SANS Institute indicates a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to BYOD policy: The complexities of BYOD increase the need for policy, but BYOD complexity makes it challenging to develop policy.

"With such complex issues to address, it's no wonder that 50% of survey respondents either don't have policies to support BYOD devices or they depend on the user to comply with corporate policy for securing these personally owned devices," the March 2012 SANS report "SANS Mobility/BYOD Security Survey" states. "Only 41% feel strongly that they have policies to support BYOD, of which 17% are standalone policies and 24% are integrated as an aspect to their overall security policies.”

To find out more about what enterprises are doing to facilitate BYOD -- and for the full list of 10 points to consider when writing your own policy -- download the free report.

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Dark Reading Staff

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