Striking the Balance: How Businesses Can Manage BYOD in an IoT World

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Originally published on the Trend Micro Blog

A recent Trend Micro report carried out by the Ponemon Institute uncovered an interesting new dynamic in the workplace. Increasing numbers of U.S. consumers are bringing wearable technology into the office.

This raises a difficult problem for enterprise IT managers keen on keeping IoT devices from swamping the workplace as the influx of BYOD devices did a few years ago. So what’s the best way to move forward?

Growth and risks

Let’s be clear, the use of IoT devices and wearables in the workplace is by no means soaring. According to our study – Privacy and Security in a Connected Life – just 25 percent of U.S. consumers said they even plan to use a fitness tracker. For Google Glass, this figure was an even lower 16 percent. Yet adoption is increasing, and as it does, these devices will inevitably find their way into the corporate world, just as the smartphone and tablet did before them. From smart watches to activity trackers and smart glasses, there’s a growing feeling that these devices can help our productivity and well-being. Given we spend the majority of our lives at work, it’s a no-brainer that employees will want to wear them in the office.

While they may support productivity, connected devices present risks for the IT department, especially those that could auto-sync corporate data, making them a potential target for hackers and thieves. Even data tracking the movements of mobile sales staff could tip off competitors about new leads. Many IT leaders will want to manage this risk by ensuring any workplace IoT devices are controlled with MDM, security tools and policies. However, according to our research, 50 percent of U.S. consumers do not believe their employer has the right to access personal data on their smart device, despite connecting to the corporate Wi-Fi.

Staff versus employer

This dilemma brings the usual arguments raised by BYOD, namely that sensitive corporate or customer data could be at risk if accessed or stored on an employee-owned device. Now if IT managers try to shackle devices with MDM or security tools, they could risk the wrath of users.

A recent court case highlights that such problems are no longer theoretical. A U.S. District Court in Texas heard the case of a staff member who sued his employer for loss under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The former employee was forced to use his own iPhone for accessing customer emails at work since one was not provided. When he resigned, the company’s network administrator remotely wiped his phone, deleting not just work information, but also his personal data. In the end, the employer won, but it won’t be the last case of this kind as staff and their employers increasingly clash over BYOD.#
Best practice BYOD

So what can the under fire IT manager do to walk this fine line, protecting both enterprise data and staff expectations of personal privacy, while enabling staff productivity? Here are a few tips for starters:

  • If you haven’t already, classify enterprise data and perform a risk assessment to better understand what is at stake if it ends up in a competitor’s hands.
  • Find out how many personal smart devices are already being used at work.
  • Familiarize yourself with the operating systems, devices and security shortcomings of these devices.
  • Consider enforcing remote lock/wipe and password protection for all devices allowed to connect to the corporate network.
  • Utilize a ‘containerized’ security approach which keeps corporate and personal data separate on devices.
  • Apply policies so that the most sensitive corporate data is encrypted.
  • Assess any new IoT devices before they are allowed to connect to the network.