Most organizations support a bring-your-own device (BYOD) protocol in which employees use their personal mobile devices in lieu of corporate-owned ones. But it's a mixed bag: Enterprise-owned devices offer more control over security; however, the business incurs the expense and full liability for them. BYOD puts the burden of buying devices on employees, but it could present a greater risk to the company.
"A bit of a trade-off has to happen, as they're managing an aspect of something that is personally owned by the employee, and they're using it for all kinds of things besides work," says Sean Ryan, a Forrester analyst serving security and risk professionals.
On nights and weekends, for example, employees are more likely to let their guards down and connect to public Wi-Fi or neglect security updates. Sure, some people are diligent about these things, while some "just don't care," Ryan adds.
This attitude can put users at greater risk for phishing, which is a common attack vector for mobile devices, says Terrance Robinson, head of enterprise security solutions at Verizon. Employees are also at risk for data leakage and man-in-the-middle attacks, especially when they hop on public Wi-Fi networks or download apps without first checking requested permissions. Mobile apps are another hot attack vector for smartphones, used in nearly 80% of attacks.
A major challenge in strengthening mobile device security is changing users' perception of it. Brian Egenrieder, chief risk officer at SyncDog, says he sees "negativity toward it, as a whole."
"I think there's just an overwhelming trust, where that trust probably hasn't been deserved just yet, in how your data is protected and how your device is protected," he explains.
Most security professionals have to walk a fine line between securing devices and providing a seamless user experience. "There is this uneasy relationship between trying to make things user-friendly and not add a lot of friction," Ryan says. Mobile security policies should be stringent enough to protect the devices but not cumbersome to employees.
Here, these three security experts share their advice for security managers seeking to improve the security of their employees' mobile devices. Have any tips you don't see here? Feel free to share them in the Comments section, below.