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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Many using personal devices for professional work without security guidance, study finds

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In recent years, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend has expanded at a tremendous rate. Not that long ago, it was relatively rare to find a business that would allow its employees to use their personal smartphones and computers to conduct work-related activities. Instead, the standard policy was to distribute corporate devices that would be used exclusively for professional purposes.

The rise of BYOD is not hard to understand. By implementing such a policy, a firm can immediately increase its flexibility, as employees are able to work from home, while traveling or at any other time while outside the office. Furthermore, because employees typically prefer to use the devices they are familiar with, BYOD policies can improve both productivity and employee satisfaction.

However, there are undoubtedly risks involved with BYOD. Most notably, there are significant data security risks that must be addressed through both secure file sharing tools and sufficient education and training. Unfortunately, as a recent study highlighted, data protection tools and strategies are lagging behind personal device usage in the United Kingdom.

UK BYOD
The study, conducted by YouGov and sponsored by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), found that nearly half of U.K. adults now use their personal devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops, for work-related purposes, Publicservice.co.uk reported.

However, despite this high rate of BYOD adoption, fewer than three out of every 10 of these employees indicated that they had received guidance concerning how to safely use their devices for these purposes.

"While [BYOD policies] offer significant benefits to organizations, employers must have adequate controls in place to make sure this information is kept secure," said Simon Rice, group manager of technology for ICO, according to the news source.

Rice went on to add that while adding security measures may present certain costs to firms, "certainly the sum will pale into insignificance when you consider the reputational damage caused by a serious data breach. This is why organizations must act now."

The news source noted that the ICO can issue fines of as much as $740,000 for serious data breaches that violate the Data Protection Act. Such fines, combined with the reputational damage cited by Simon, make breaches potentially catastrophic occurrences for firms.

Protecting data with BYOD
The key to successful, protected BYOD policies is the combination of security tools and effective policies. The two must work in conjunction to be effective.

In terms of tools, firms should invest in secure file sharing solutions that have been specifically designed for BYOD deployments. With a dedicated mobile file sharing tool, employees will be able to easily share and receive documents and other files both internally and externally without risking the integrity of corporate information.

However, even the most robust technology is only effective when utilized. Firms must therefore also take the time to fully educate employees about the importance of data security and how to use the resources at their disposal.