BYOD: How Personal Devices Are Reshaping Business…and Threatening Security

The world is going mobile.  The business world, the academic community, organizations, and individuals alike are increasingly relying on smartphones and tablets to connect to the Internet and with one another.  How do we know this?  Well, aside from the fact that everyone always seems to have their eyes on the latest “i” this or “i” that or some other device (even when driving), there are these stats:

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  • According to a 2012 Pew Internet Study, 88 percent of adults in the United States own a cell phone and, of those adults, 55 percent use it to access the Internet.
  • iGR Wireless Research estimates that tablet sales in the U.S. will reach over 45 million units by the end of 2016.
  • According to Good Technology’s 2nd Annual State of BYOD Report, 76 percent of enterprises surveyed formally supported the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) concept in their workplace. 

These statistics illustrate that the line between personal time and work hours has become increasingly blurred.  The crumbling of the wall that separated “on-the-job” from “off-the-clock” has generated an “always-on” work ethic–whether an employee consciously acknowledges this or not. 

BYOD provides the means by which connectedness and collaboration are available on demand.  The portability of external storage drives, third-party file synchronization services such as Dropbox and Box, and cloud services such as Drive and Skydrive have made the ability to collaborate virtually instantaneous. 

As much as effective collaboration is essential to productivity, the forecast doesn’t necessarily call for smooth sailing, however.  The use of personal devices in a business setting, when combined with the relative complexity of the security procedures of most enterprises, has led to a scenario where many individuals shortcut or actually ignore those security procedures. 

The net effect on security when these factors converge is not good.  At a time when theft of intellectual property (both by competitors and, in some extreme cases, foreign governments) is at an all-time high, more and more companies are turning over primary responsibility for data security to their employees in the interest of increasing productivity and collaboration; given the inherent risks associated with lax security measures, this is clearly potentially harmful to the organization. 

BYOD appears here to stay.  However, it doesn’t mean that companies should resign themselves to easy-to-use but insecure security procedures simply to facilitate productivity.  Every enterprise is well-advised to audit their BYOD security environment– and to do so sooner rather than later.