Monday, July 8, 2013

Who Does BYOD Really Benefit?

BYOD may or may not be a foreign term to you, though it's actually been in use for quite a few years now.  It's becoming more and more common in the workplace as more people begin using smartphones and other mobile devices.  However, like anything else, it has its disadvantages—especially in the realm of security.

BYOD stands for "bring your own device", and is a policy allowing employees to bring their own personal technological devices (like laptops, smartphones, and tablets) to work and use them on the job.  Again, people have been doing this for a few years now, though primarily with laptops.  However, as smaller mobile devices like smartphones and tablets become more popular, you're going to start seeing BYOD in a whole new light as your co-workers begin using these devices regularly at work.

BYOD, in some forms, reaches beyond the workplace.  For example, I see another form of it quite commonly at my community college, where my fellow students always have their devices with them and always seem to be doing something on them, be it related to school or not.  (Sometimes I look over at the people sitting next to me in class and I see that they're actually on Facebook, or studying material for a different class.  But it's not for me to judge.)

"Benefits" of a Young Policy

Honestly, the benefits of adopting this policy are reserved mostly for employers.  By allowing (or requiring) employees to use their own tech devices for work, companies are opting out of the heavy expenses of supplying and maintaining such devices.  In most cases, BYOD places all the financial responsibility of the device on you, because it is supposedly "your" device.

There is one clear benefit to using "your" device at work—you know it well.  You know how to work your own phone, laptop, or tablet.  You know how everything is organized.  You have the power to arm your devices with your own privacy settings, antivirus, etc.

However, there are serious pitfalls too.  The most obvious disadvantage is that you are making the line separating YOUR property and your EMPLOYER'S property very fuzzy.

Yes, it's "your" device, and you're still responsible for its upkeep.  However, you might be storing and working with company data.  You might be accessing private company networks, and you're using your device on company time.  What exactly you do with your phone, laptop, tablet, etc. and when you do it become critical issues.  Who has rights to what data?  Can your employer demand to see whatever he/she wants on your device, or dictate you on how to use it in your off-time?

It's difficult to give a definite answer, since the device is now being used for personal and work-related purposes at the same time.  Many of the legal issues surrounding BYOD have yet to be resolved simply because it is in its infancy.


And, in case ownership issues weren't enough, you can always throw in the threat of someone trying to break into devices to steal your data or the company's data.  Hackers don't always have a set, known target ahead of time, but imagine how much easier you're making their job for them by connecting your personal device to private data belonging to your employer.  Any weaknesses in security either in your own device or in company data (some companies secure their networks well, some don't) could be easily exploited, and the technological connection that BYOD has made between you and your employer just adds to the spoils of anybody who manages to break into your system.

The Ultimate Conclusion

BYOD is a difficult thing to avoid for any student or employee.  However, it's critical to understand that, regardless of any benefits and risks that can be assessed, the fact of the matter is that BYOD is a young, still-developing policy that has yet to take true shape.  Many legal and security standards have yet to be set, meaning that your ownership of your own device and the security of anyone—employer or employee—who participates in BYOD are for the most part up in the air.  BYOD is a grand technological experiment, and in the end, if it's possible to keep your personal and work-related data separate, please do so.  There's simply too much that could go wrong by allowing such an odd connection to be made.

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