There is a new and interesting trend afoot on the corporate horizon. In today’s environment of continued economic sluggishness, companies with an interest in cutting costs and boosting employee productivity both locally and virtually are trying out arrangements that allow employees to BYOD – “bring your own device” – to work. Devices employed may range from laptop computers to mobile phones, as well as assistive devices such as networked scanners, fax machines and printers. There are inherent benefits and risks to such policies. These of which continue to be explored in the interests of keeping American business both mobile and profitable.
The BYOD concept has also given rise to another acronym – “BYOR” – which stands for “Bring Your Own Risk.” This denotes the inherent security risks that businesses take on when they allow personal devices to access corporate systems. Because of this, there continues to be much discussion and new innovations that can reduce risk of security breaches as well as the continual threat of malicious software and spyware.
Education is Vital in BYOD
One essential tool that all businesses that adopt a BYOD approach should employ is a basic education in how corporate espionage can unfold. Knowledge is power and once there is a basic awareness of common security vulnerabilities, a company can take action. They will be able shore up their defenses in those areas and prevent breaches and malware from accessing corporate systems.
It is very important not to take a defensive position or to assume that corporate espionage or malware won’t access your system. The size of the business or profitability does not matter as much as how easy it is to breach a particular company’s security systems. Just like with theft of homes and cars, the easier it is for the thief to break in, the more likely a break-in is to occur. So much of a company’s preparations towards corporate security once a BYOD policy is implemented will be to simply make attempts to breach your systems so difficult that it simply isn’t worth a criminal’s effort to do so.
How to Keep You and Your Information Safe
There are several strategies that can be incredible assets, if your company chooses to adopt a BYOD approach. One is purely educational in nature. All employees who participate in the BYOD program, as well as those who continue to use corporate-issue devices, should be made aware of the likelihood that they will be targeted by malware, spyware or espionage efforts. With more than 26 million new strains of malware generated in the last 12 months alone, criminal activity of this nature is reaching a new all-time high. If employees are forewarned, they will be more likely to report suspicious emails and activity when observed on their devices.
The next helpful strategy is to ensure that all devices that participate in the BYOD program are appropriate equipped with anti-virus and firewall security; this can take on several forms. One form may be to issue the same anti-virus security software to all participating employees and require them to have the software installed and configured by your corporate IT (information technology) professionals. Another form may be to simply monitor the employee’s own private anti-virus software to ensure compliance with corporate security standards. Yet another format may include wrapping in anti-virus and malware detection software with use of a central employee network, which only authorized employees and devices have access to.
Allowing employees to use public Wi-Fi services to access corporate data and files is one of the major ways in which spyware, malware and criminals bent on corporate espionage can gain access to private files. While there is no way to completely eradicate the risk of using public Wi-Fi for business communications, implementing data encryption services can increase the difficulty of accessing business information. This makes theft or malicious activity less enticing for criminals who are searching for an “easy target.” In the same way, educating employees about what to do when a BYOD device is reported lost or stolen can decrease the time a device may be at risk in the hands of a criminal. Having a tracking system for which BYOD devices are accessing the corporate network at any time, and whether those patterns suddenly become erratic or unusual, can also reduce the risk of BYOD devices falling into the wrong hands.
Eric Tran works with several start-ups in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. He has also been an avid IT blogger since college and has been published with several high-profile web publications in recent years.
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