Who doesn’t love freedom? Freedom encompasses plenty of things in our lives. At the workplace, there’s one kind of freedom many organizations give their employees. Freedom to use personal devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops) at and for work. That’s what Bring Your Own Device or BYOD is all about. And no doubt, it’s loved and popular today more than ever—82%1 of organizations are BYOD-enabled.
But sometimes freedom comes at a cost—BYOD security risks and challenges. There are many potential security risks of allowing employees to access work information on their personal devices. It’s because organizations can’t control what employees do with their devices after work. From downloading unsafe apps to accessing public Wi-Fi, it’s a personal device and a personal choice. However, these devices are also home to critical and confidential corporate data that needs protection.
Thus, a BYOD policy, backed by a robust Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution, is a must-have for businesses. And that’s what this blog is all about—identifying BYOD security risks and ways an MDM solution with containerization can thwart them.
Top BYOD Security Risks and Challenges
Before we move on to addressing BYOD security concerns, it’s important to know what are the top BYOD security risks and challenges. Let’s list down some that can help organizations in BYOD risk assessment.
1. Data Loss and Leakage
The primary BYOD security concern that bothers organizations the most is data leakage or loss. Cyberattacks are rising, and with BYOD, the possibility of sensitive corporate data falling into the wrong hands is high. Employees accessing, storing, or sharing confidential information on personal devices can inadvertently expose the organization to data breaches. Even the most unintentional actions, like opening a link received on personal email, can expose confidential information to threat actors. These threat actors can then cause a lot of disarray.
2. Malicious Apps and Content
Personal apps are not always what they seem, and that’s another potential BYOD security risk. The number of apps containing malware has been on the rise. Cybercriminals thrive on trends to lure users into downloading malicious apps. The Pokemon Go craze is one such example where gaming enthusiasts fell prey to apps with malware. Cybercriminals can leverage these malicious apps to sneak into and control mobile devices. They can then access the corporate data stored on personal devices, and we all know what can happen next. The same malicious app scenario holds true when a personal device accesses web content without filters.
3. Infected Devices
Employee mobile devices that run outdated or unpatched versions of operating systems and apps are yet another BYOD security risk. For cybercriminals, unpatched vulnerabilities are a gateway to hacking and infecting devices. Apps and OS must stay updated all the time to avoid such intrusions. Another common cause of infection creeping into devices is a lackluster approach to apps—app fatigue. With so much happening on mobiles these days, people are bound to be casual toward app downloads. Granting excessive app permissions without reading the T&C can lead to device infections. An infected device is at high risk of corporate data compromise, and personal data can be in equal jeopardy.
4. Business vs. Personal Blur
The blur between using mobile devices for business and personal use thickens without a BYOD policy and an MDM solution. As it’s a personal device, it will be used for personal purposes—that’s inevitable. The social media credentials (with auto log-in) lie next to corporate email credentials on the same device. A suspicious downloaded file lives in the same folder as a marketing presentation. Someone can share a work-related file as a wrong attachment to a friend. Or worse, some sullen employee can decide to go rogue and start taking screenshots of confidential things. All of these are serious data security concerns when BYO devices are unmanaged.
5. Inadequate Policies
Inadequate or fragile BYOD policies are as good as having no policy. The fundamental of it lies in password protection.
Here are some astonishing stats about password security as per a report2,
- 79% of employees know the grave threat of compromised passwords.
- 65% of employees use variations of the same password.
- Even after a data breach, 45% of employees don’t change their passwords.
The numbers clearly state the importance of a strong passcode policy for organizations within the BYOD framework to ensure mobile device security.
6. Loss or Theft of Device
It’s human to make mistakes. A moment of attention deficiency can lead to mobile devices getting lost or stolen. The probability of recovery is not on the bright side either. Hence, lost or stolen employee devices (used for work) can give data security nightmares to organizations. It’s a kind of threat that makes the employee and the organization feel helpless. Also, with device loss or theft, the chances of corporate data falling into the wrong hands are exponential.
Taking Control with MDM & BYOD Containerization
An adage goes—plan for the best but prepare for the worst. While trust is a huge parameter for employees to succeed, corporate data security is simply non-negotiable. That’s precisely what an MDM solution brings to the table for organizations that embrace the BYOD culture. BYOD containerization, when explained, can feel magical to a kid, but for businesses and IT teams, it’s the logic that does the magic.
In the MDM-BYOD scheme of things, in a managed (enrolled) personal device of an employee, MDM software helps IT create two separate containers—work and personal. These two containers are segregated as if they were two rails that comprise a railway track—always together but never meeting each other. But of course, there’s more to it with MDM.
Isolating Corporate and Personal Data
First things first. Containerization establishes a distinct and secure environment for corporate apps and data on a personal device. This segregation ensures sensitive information remains isolated from personal apps and content, reducing the risk of data leakage. Simply put, what you do on Tinder has nothing to do with your Slack outreach.
Secure Access Controls
BYOD containerization allows IT admins to enforce strict access controls within the work container. This includes authentication measures such as PINs, passwords, or biometrics, ensuring only authorized access to corporate data within personal devices. Organizations can also prevent employees from taking screenshots within the work container. A BYOD passcode policy can heighten data security further. Admins can establish passcode policies for the work container, defining the length, complexity, expiry, and maximum wrong attempts. In short, after a squabble, there’s no way you can mess with your girlfriend’s work even if you can access her smartphone—and vice versa.
Application and Website Allowlisting
IT admins can control the apps with access to the corporate or work container. This involves allowing approved applications while preventing the installation or use of unauthorized and potentially insecure apps. The same applies to websites. Allowlisting (or blocklisting) of apps and websites mitigates the risk of malware and other corporate data security threats. In essence, you are free to download a fishy PDF editing app and risk your personal data. If an app isn’t in the allowlist of IT, you can’t have it in the work container.
Remote Container Management
In case of a security incident or needing to deprovision a device when an employee quits, there’s no need to get the jitters. MDM solutions with BYOD containerization capabilities allow IT admins to remotely manage and wipe only the corporate container, leaving personal data untouched. This selective wipe ensures corporate data security without compromising personal information. Therefore, nothing happens to your photo gallery when you switch jobs. But with remote wipe, there’s no way you can reaccess the work container (correction, ex-work container).
App Management and Updates
Within the designated work container, IT admins can manage all the apps, and they are there because they are work-related apps. Thus, all work apps remain updated and patched, leaving no scope for vulnerabilities. Admins can also push, install, and uninstall apps inside the work container without any involvement of the device owner. Duly note that organizations can’t manage apps residing in the personal container. In context, you are free not to update your shopping apps, but all your work apps are managed, and updates are taken care of.
Monitoring and Reporting
BYOD containerization with MDM offers robust monitoring and reporting features. IT admins can track activities within the work container, detect potential security incidents, and generate reports for compliance purposes. To put things into perspective, feel free to have a Netflix binge, but while accessing the work container, stay compliant with your organization’s standards. More importantly, not many organizations will have Netflix in the work container of employees (except, of course, Netflix itself!).
One of the main BYOD security concerns often lies in the reluctance of employees to enroll their devices in an MDM solution. It’s generally because they might think of the IT department as a secret intelligence agency spying on them. On the contrary, BYOD containerization on enrolled personal devices maintains a seamless user experience, allowing employees to use their devices for work and personal tasks. IT admins can never access the personal container, so rest assured that your organization has no idea about your Instagram shenanigans. They indeed can flag you, and rightfully so, if you extend the shenanigans to the work container.
Customizable Container Policies
BYOD containerization isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Just as with overall MDM policies, containerization offers customization options. IT admins can tailor container security policies to align with the specific needs and risk tolerance of the organization. Thus, the work containers of different employees within the same organization can have an entirely different set of policies.
Confront BYOD Security Risks Head-on with Scalefusion
Incorporating BYOD containerization into the broader MDM strategy enhances the security posture of organizations. It creates a secure enclave for corporate data within the inherently less secure environment of personal devices. This additional layer of protection contributes significantly to safeguarding sensitive information and maintaining the integrity of corporate data in BYOD environments.
While it presents numerous benefits, organizations must confront various BYOD security risks and challenges. Embracing BYOD containerization with an MDM solution like Scalefusion empowers IT admins to address these challenges proactively. Employees are free to use their devices however they like, while organizations can protect their data. That’s the true essence of freedom in the BYOD sense.
Want to know about the BYOD containerization capabilities of Scalefusion in detail? Schedule a demo with our experts or sign up for a 14-day free trial.