Are Your Employees Using Their Own Devices for Work? Here Are a Few Security Reminders

It might seem hard to believe, but just five years ago the idea of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was a new, if not somewhat controversial, idea. Most people were still carrying around two mobile phones, one personal and one for work, and only a small percentage of companies were allowing employees to choose and use their own devices for work.

Now here we are, nearing the end of the decade, and most people expect to use their phones for work just as they expect that the office refrigerator is going to be scary place. However, just because most companies have switched to a BYOD model doesn’t mean that it’s become a more secure model. In fact, if anything, BYOD has created more risks for companies, as hackers have begun targeting mobile devices in hopes that they can gain access to corporate information via unsuspecting employees. The marked increase in mobile malware and other security risks mean that as a business owner, you need to be on top of the security of your employee mobile devices.

If you have a BYOD shop, or you are thinking about making the switch, follow these important security reminders.

Implement Endpoint Security 
Every time a device is connected to your network, it creates an endpoint —a potential entry point for a security threat. Therefore, it’s important that you employ an endpoint security solution that will not only authenticate the network logins from employee devices and deny access to unauthorized endpoints, but that will also ensure that each device is secure and “clean” before it accesses the network. For example, one of your employees may have downloaded a new app over the weekend, and that app contains malware that could potentially threaten your network. The employee’s phone may be authenticated, but the endpoint security solution would detect and block the malware via antivirus or antimalware protection, a firewall, and intrusion prevention. It would automatically alert your employee to the problem.

Implement Mobile Device Management
Mobile device management is an important companion to endpoint security. With MDM, you can maintain visibility into your employees’ devices, while still maintaining their privacy. To build on the previous example, if your company controls devices using MDM, the malware could have been blocked before it was even installed on the device, thanks to mobile antivirus software that is automatically updated to all devices. A MDM program also allows IT to ensure that all of the devices on the network have up-to-date operating systems, and in the event that a device is lost or stolen, it can be remotely locked or wiped to protect sensitive company data.

Enforce Password Protocols
A significant percentage of data breaches originate from mobile devices that aren’t password or passcode protected. Employees should be required to lock and secure their mobile devices with a passcode when the device is not in use. In fact, most of the latest devices offer additional protection, including facial recognition or biometric tools to keep the contents safe from prying eyes.

In addition to locking the devices themselves with passwords, remind employees that they should not store passwords on their devices or remain logged in to corporate resources. When they do, anyone who uses their device could potentially access sensitive data, potentially creating a data breach.

Develop Strong Policies
BYOD policies are often tricky, because the devices are owned by the employees and used for personal purposes as well as work. However, in order to protect your business, you need to develop strong BYOD policies. These might include:

  • Restrictions on applications that can be downloaded. Some companies have a blacklist of apps or developers, while others allow employees to download any app as long as it comes from an official source.
  • Restrictions on networks that can be used. For example, consider prohibiting your employees from using public, unsecure Wi-Fi connections that are easily hacked.
  • Mandate security protocols like passwords, antivirus software, and backups.
  • Clearly establish your protocols regarding personal information, including what you can/will access and how it will be protected. Provide a clear explanation of what will be wiped if necessary. Tell employees if/how their mobile usage will be monitored.
  • Establish a clear protocol for handling lost or stolen devices.

BYOD offers a great deal of convenience for both your company and your employees, but it also creates risk. Minimize that risk by making security a priority, and putting tools in place to keep data safe.

Photo by Goodluz | Shutterstock

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