Mobile Device Management: Confronting the BYOD Fears

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a movement and IT initiative that makes plenty of sense and is making ripples in mobile device management. Nearly every professional has some form of mobile device, and it makes sense to leverage those devices’ capabilities for enterprise needs. However, just as telecommuting could catch on and save companies tremendous resources in terms of facilities costs, much like telecommuting BYOD has caveats: security and the human factor.

In a recent European Information Security summit in London, the concept was referred to by one commentator as “Bring You Own Disaster.” The nature of concerns could be divided out into a) the pure technical hurdles of personal and business data being managed on the same device and b) user security awareness.

The difficulty in blurring the lines between a personal and business device is that some form of access control and encryption must be in place in order to protect the sensitive data. Furthermore, measures must exist in order to erase data on a phone that has been lost or compromised (and does that imply that the user’s personal data should be wiped as well?)

When it comes to security, the concern is the oldest one in the tech world – unwitting users compromising the endpoints of a network. With PIN codes being shared among family members or cloud-based apps being used to share data without an understanding of the risk, these fears are quite valid.

As with all risky-but-rewarding tech initiatives, means are being developed to mitigate the chances of BYOD “disasters.” For instance, Cisco has developed a BYOD security solution that includes:

  • “Mobile business freedom with policy based on when, where, and how users access the network.”
  • Real-time endpoint scanning.
  • “Control over endpoint access based on company-defined compliance policies: for instance, requiring pin lock or disallowing jail-broken devices or implementing remote data wipe on lost or stolen mobile devices.”

Another approach to BYOD security is to flip the idea on its head. Don’t think about securing the device (which was not designed with the company’s security in mind in the first place); think about securing the data. One strategy for this is Mobile Application Management (MAM) – sort of like an “app” store for enterprise-specific apps. As one IT manager has said:

“I’m not going to access proprietary data by opening Angry Birds … So do I need to manage Angry Birds? Probably not.”

Network providers can also increase BYOD security with Mobile device management (MDM) partners such as 101 Digital. 101 Digital’s services provide flexibilty, up-to-date scanning and security status of devices, and effective GPS tracking and data purging on lost devices.