December 9, 2013
If you are a parent today, you live your life in fear. Everything needs to be sanitized with 99.7% anti-bacterial soap. The corporate world isn't much different when it comes to bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. We have security and IT executives who are scared to death that viruses from the outside are going to walk in on their employees smartphones and attack their networks.
I understand the need for security and I have seen firsthand how networks can be taken down by errant viruses and attacks. However, many IT organizations are acting like frightened parents. Most of us who grew up prior to the millennial age lived in a world where eating dirt was just a way of setting yourself up for a healthy adulthood. That did not mean you skipped taking showers and covering your mouth when coughing, but you weren't followed around with a bottle of hand sanitizer.
When we look at the new world of BYOD, it isn't that much different. Yes, threats to security are out there, and yes, there are bad people hiding around the corners that wish to do your enterprise harm. Nevertheless, sanitizing every phone and keeping them out of your network just isn't feasible or even a healthy strategy. You need to balance the BYOD security risk and the potential gains.
[Want to learn more about mobile security? Read Android Security: 8 Signs Hackers Own Your Smartphone.]
Sure, you can treat your network like the boy in the bubble, but you'll be losing a great productivity tool and, possibly, some great employees. A prime example of this mentality was shown when IBM banned Siri on their employees’ phones. IBM had valid concerns about data security, but this could easily be seen as an over-reaction and lead employees to stick with their two-phone mentality (one supplied by the company for business use and one for personal use).
The key is to provide options for employees that will help protect corporate data without being overbearing. Rebecca Abrahams hits this topic on the head with her article "Gen Y Does Not Want to Hear About BYOD Security Measures." Abrahams acknowledges the importance of security in the mobile world, but she also emphasizes the need for balance and education.
The key is to show your employees that you trust them and that you aren't afraid that every little thing their mobile phone touches is going to bring down your network. A truly successful BYOD security implementation works in the background with little interference with the workings of the user. Just as you were taught to wash your hands and cover your mouth when you cough when you were a child, new employees need to be given the proper tools and knowledge to successfully protect themselves and their corporate data.
Easy steps employees can take can to protect themselves and their employer's data should be spelled out in a corporate BYOD policy. Some of the basics include requiring a PIN on devices and setting up encryption. These two steps are basic building blocks for securing phones and data.
So, when implementing BYOD, look at what you really need to be afraid of. A high-profile financial institution handling loads of money will need one level of BYOD security policies whereas a midsized business selling widgets won't need to look like Fort Knox. Be realistic as you go down the path to BYOD. Don't let perfect get in the way of good policies that will help make your employee more productive. Embrace the dirt while fighting the germs that need to be fought.
Mike Jennett is the Enterprise Mobility Deployment Program Director for Hewlett Packard where he is responsible for all aspects of the development, deployment, and integration of mobile apps and infrastructure for HP IT. He has an extensive background in mobility, web and enterprise application deployment.
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