Just days before National Cyber Security Awareness Month, Bitdefender carried out a study on a representative chunk of Internet users living in the United States to evaluate their attitudes and behaviors related to data security at work.
This may sound like a quote from Captain Obvious if you work in infosec, but for the sake of the wider readership, I’ll still say it: We did not have great expectations on the consumer side, as it is prone to error and to trading security for convenience.
When the survey results came in, they were pretty much in line with what we already knew: BYOD is riding high this year, and, subsequently, 71% of employed Americans who own personal mobile devices are allowed to connect them to their employers’ secure networks.
This would be no problem, except that the same study found 39.7% of users who connect personal mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and phones) to corporate networks have no lock-screen mechanism set in place.
If lost or stolen, these devices would immediately expose their contents (private and work-related information) to unauthorized third parties, which puts companies in a weak position. In contrast, only 9.1% of BYOD users rely on biometric features (face, voice, or fingerprint recognition) as the preferred method for unlocking their mobile devices.
Another worrying aspect revealed by the study is that these devices rarely have emergency mitigation features: Two-thirds of employed Americans either don’t have the remote wipe function activated or don’t know about it, which would allow a third party to profit from the device, account, and data stored on it indefinitely. This includes company data and email accounts.
Device-sharing is another key focus of the Bitdefender study. According to the respondents, 29.7% of BYOD users would share their personal mobile devices with friends or family members even if they hold critical company data. Demographically, employees aged 45 to 64 share their devices to a lesser extent, while less-educated employees are more open to sharing.
As I mentioned above, this is almost excusable from the employees’ point of view. Who wants to waste their time drawing complex unlock patterns or to voluntarily subject their brains to the hassle of memorizing a medium-to-insanely complex domain password that changes every 30 days? Definitely not the 70% of US mobile device owners with a job.
What made me write about this study today, however, is a different aspect: the fact that a great deal of US companies have no policies for BYOD lovers, and the figures I shared above leave no room for interpretation.
Granted, these employees are the legal owners of their devices and can take all the risks they want, but it’s your duty as a security professional to safeguard your company’s data and intellectual property that may live on those unmanaged devices. And last time I checked, the cost of a data breach was infinitely larger than the price of a comprehensive mobile device management solution.
What about you? How are you dealing with the BYOD phenomenon in your organization?