Given the rapid implementation of shelter-in-place orders when the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March, not many companies had enough time to procure computers and other devices their staff would use to work remotely. Thus, they were thrust into a bring your own device (BYOD) environment, in which employees use their personal devices to perform their tasks.
A BYOD arrangement has its merits — it saves your company money and may even improve your staff’s productivity. It does, however, come with its share of cybersecurity risks, albeit ones you can address with the right strategies.
What are the risks of a BYOD environment?
The vulnerabilities of BYOD include:
1. Third-party networks
Your office network may have several layers of protection installed, but that cannot be said for your employees’ home internet connections. And if your staff uses public Wi-Fi networks, such as those in cafes and libraries, then the risks are even worse.
2. Gadget loss
The devices your staff uses for work may get lost or stolen, putting both personal and business data stored in these gadgets at risk of exposure.
3. Operating system (OS) vulnerabilities
You likely use just one software ecosystem in the office, making it easy to patch or address any vulnerabilities. This may not be the case with BYOD, as some of your employees may use devices running on iOS, Android, Windows OS, or macOS.
4. Malicious apps
If your staff uses their smartphones for work, the apps installed in these devices could be detrimental to your data security. Even those downloaded from the official Android and Apple app stores may not be entirely safe.
5. Malicious websites
You have little to no control over what your employees do with their personal devices outside of work. They could be visiting malicious websites that could infect their devices with malware.
How can you address the vulnerabilities of BYOD?
The following strategies can help mitigate the risks associated with a BYOD environment:
1. Ensure that all devices are covered by BYOD security policies
Make it clear that even though your staff are using their personal devices, they are still handling company data. Implement a BYOD policy, which includes rules such as:
- Using complex passwords, which also need to be updated regularly
- Handling or transferring data using only company-vetted apps
- Regularly applying software patches
- Revoking or refusing access from certain devices, especially those issued to employees who've left the company
2. Prohibit the use of rooted devices
Otherwise known as jailbreaking, rooting gives users greater control over a device’s configuration. Unfortunately, this also renders the device more vulnerable to external threats, such as hacking and malware infection. Do not permit your staff to work using rooted devices as this can jeopardize both their data and your company’s.
3. Create a separate storage space for business data
Using a separate storage for corporate data is practical for several reasons. For one, it protects against the risks of gadget loss and makes it easier to manage information privacy should the employee leave the company. You can use cloud servers, which are protected by passwords, encryption, and other security measures, especially for this purpose.
Alternatively, your staff can use cloud-based apps, which automatically store data in cloud servers, to perform their tasks. For example, Google Docs and Google Sheets are web-based alternatives for locally installed word processors and spreadsheets, respectively.
You may also opt to use virtual desktops. These are desktops that are hosted in the cloud and can be accessed through a web browser. It offers the functionality of an actual computer without storing company data and apps on your staff’s devices.
4. Use a virtual private network (VPN)
As with regular connections, traffic can still be intercepted in a VPN. The difference is that the data going through the “tunnel” is encrypted, so the data is unreadable to interlopers. This way, it protects users’s privacy and prevents their exposure to the dangerous nooks and crannies of the internet.
5. Encrypt all devices
You can require your staff to install third-party applications that encrypt data stored in their devices. This renders all stored information unreadable — thus, unusable — to malicious third parties, especially on the off chance that the device is lost or stolen.
A managed services provider (MSP) like Tech Squared can also monitor devices remotely, ensuring that they are functioning optimally and are protected against cyberthreats. Additionally, our experts can recommend reliable tools and applications to bolster the efficiency and security of your BYOD environment.
Discover the other ways an MSP can empower your business by downloading this free eBook today.