According to many IT experts, 2013 was the year that the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend broke through into the mainstream. BYOD was present in companies in years prior, but this year saw BYOD policies implemented in countless new businesses and to a degree never before seen. And as many industry observers have concluded, it appears likely that 2014 will see this trend continue to expand.
This presents both opportunities and challenges to businesses of all kinds, with the most serious and urgent issue being the inherent security risks posed by BYOD environments. Writing for SC Magazine UK, industry expert Leon Ward recently urged companies to develop security strategies for their 2014 BYOD efforts before year's end. After all, without secure file sharing and data protection tools in place, BYOD may be more of a burden than a benefit to these organizations.
As Ward noted, BYOD has the potential to pose a major headache to a company's IT department. Data protection is among the most important responsibilities for the these employees, and the introduction of a multitude of devices and operating systems with access to the corporate network complicates this job immensely. Different devices may demand different protective strategies, and IT professionals may struggle to strike the right balance. Consequently, many hackers are focusing their efforts on mobile devices, as these may pose easier targets for data theft.
Additionally, Ward pointed out that mobile malware has become increasingly prevalent. When mobile devices are connected to the corporate network, these programs morph from the individual's problem into a threat to the company as a whole.
Yet for all of these risks, Ward did not advocate that firms abandon BYOD. On the contrary, he asserted that firms can achieve secure environments, so long as they are proactive and follow best practices.
One key consideration, according to Ward, is visibility. Business and IT leaders should take steps to ensure that they can accurately view all of the devices that are connected to the corporate network and how these devices are behaving.
"With this baseline of information they can track mobile device usage and applications and identify potential security policy violations," Ward asserted.
Other technologies highlighted by Ward included security intelligence solutions and application control tools. All of these resources can be used by a business's IT personnel to gain a more effective degree of control over the behavior of mobile devices on the network, and can therefore increase the overall level of security.
One final technological solution that firms enabling BYOD should embrace is secure file sharing. Specifically, firms should ensure that all employees using their own smartphones and tablets for work-related purpose have easy access to simple-to-use, secure file sharing programs. By doing so, businesses can minimize the risk that workers will turn to insecure options when sending and receiving sensitive corporate files with their mobile devices, which can pose a serious threat to an organization's overall security.