Visions of kicking back and working from the beach with a piña colada in one hand and an iPad in the other are no longer just flights of fancy for many workers. Businesses are finding that it really is possible for employees to work remotely on their own devices without losing any productivity.
As a result, many companies are measuring the benefits of employees working remotely against the logistical issues inherent in developing a mobile device management plan.
There are many tangible benefits of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), including:
- Reduced equipment costs
- Increased employee satisfaction and efficiency
- Decreased IT staff burden (since employees maintain their own equipment)
- Reduced office space square footage (as workers are mostly off-site)
The risk in BYOD is that these devices can potentially expose security vulnerabilities not directly supervised by IT staff or addressed by corporate antivirus solutions. This is where the need for mobile device management comes in.
A new landscape of threats
Tablets and smartphones are arguably less secure than desktop PCs and laptops because they lack pre-installed malware protection. Most computers include at least a trial version of an antivirus suite, but for the newest mobile gadgets, individual users and IT managers are on their own to search for and install mobile endpoint security management.
This vulnerability has not escaped the attention of hackers, who unleash creative new threats like SMS text messaged-based attacks on a daily basis. The old-school virus, while still annoying, does not hold a candle to the damage caused by these new approaches in cybercrime, which include more sophisticated Trojans, keyloggers, phishing attacks and malicious apps than ever before.
Maintaining security while not breaking the bank
Enforcing a ban on these devices is a near impossibility, but there are options for businesses on a tight budget to maintain security:
- The first cost-effective step is to immediately establish protocols regarding these devices in the workplace, including guidelines for acceptable use, forbidden applications and how to avoid dangerous activities, such as browsing certain questionable sites while connected to the company’s Wi-Fi.
- Next, evaluate your current solutions to see if they can be modified to protect BYOD devices through password enforcement, remote wiping or other protective measures.
- If the quantity of devices or sensitivity of data requires a more robust solution, explore whether the use of Mobile Device Management (MDM) software makes sense. MDM provides a centralized platform to manage all BYOD devices and is recommended if IT personnel are spending an inordinate amount of time securing tablets and smartphones – or if the sheer variety of devices and new threats tests their expertise.
Main components of an effective MDM program
If you determine that an MDM service is appropriate, how do you choose one? Use the following as a mini-checklist to cover the major recommended features:
- Cloud-based, so updates are automatic and painless
- Remote configuration and monitoring
- Passwords, blacklists and other security policies enforcement
- Backup/restore functionality of corporate data
- Logging/reporting for compliance purposes
- Remote disconnection or disabling of unauthorized devices and applications
- Scalable, so new users and increasingly sophisticated devices can be accommodated easily
Many businesses are only just becoming aware of the burgeoning BYOD trend and the necessity of protecting mobile devices. Small- and medium-sized businesses without large IT staff and corresponding big budgets need a solution that protects them as much as the larger companies. Fortunately, the MDM trend is heading towards more affordable and easier-to-manage solutions, which is great news no matter how big or small your company is.
Mobile devices in the workforce are here to stay. Develop a plan to manage them before they cause havoc in your company.