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Bring Your Own Device – The security risk and how to make it work

Bring Your Own Device – The security risk and how to make it work

In this day of age lots of people have portable devices. Along with laptops there are also tablets and smart phones that users choose to bring into work and use. This is called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). BYOD can make things more convenient for the user by giving them preference over what hardware and software they use. However, this gives the company issue for these reasons:

  1. Can introduce viruses onto the network: Devices that belong to the company will be heavily regulated by the IT department. The computers will have full anti-virus software installed on with strictly controlled firewalls and website blocking to prevent any viruses getting on the network. A user’s own device isn’t heavily regulated. They may have anti-virus on their device (they’d be silly not to) but this won’t necessarily stop them getting infected. If the device is being used for personal use only then it won’t be a problem for the IT department or the company. But when the user brings in the device to work, connects it to the network and start’s sending out emails to colleagues then you could see the office quickly becoming contaminated with viruses. This will be a nightmare for the company as it will take a while to clear the computers of viruses and get the office back online. This brings me to my second point.
  2. Compromising of company data: With the rise of cyber-crime, company data has become a valuable and tightly guarded asset. All this data will be kept on encrypted servers behind firewalls and locked doors. All these measures would make it very hard for a potential hacker to get to the data, but with BYOD this can all be compromised. If a user does some work on sensitive data from their own device then they could compromise by having little safe guards against hackers but also, should they take the data out of the company building, they could compromise the data by accidentally leaving their device in a place that could be stolen or the person accidentally loses it in a public place (that has happened before with Government officials leaving laptops and USB sticks on the train).
  3. Technical Issues: With company devices, everything is uniform. All the computers would have the same software, hardware and applications which make it easier for IT support to fix potential issues. With BYOD you’ll find lots of different devices with different specifications. This makes it a lot harder for IT support to fix issues due to being unfamiliar with technology and the quagmire of apps the user would have on their device. It also issues with hardware and software compatibility. For example: a user brings in their MacBook Pro to do work on and uses an Apple application to do work. He then sends this work to his colleagues (who are using Windows based devices) and they are unable too view his work because they haven’t got the software to view the file.
  4. There are ways round the problems cause by BYOD. One of these is the use of VMware Virtual Machines (VM’s).
    The use of VM’s could completely negate the risks of BYOD if it’s implemented properly. This is how it would work: The user would bring in their device to work. Once in they would setup the device, connect to a public network (this would give them internet access without putting the, potential infected, device on the same network as other, more secure devices on the company network). Once connected to the network they can open up startup their company VM and do their work on the VM.
    By doing their work on the VM over a public network then this would mean the device isn’t in contact with any other company device on a private network. That way, viruses won’t be able to spread to the company devices and infect them.
    Also, by using VM’s, company data can’t be physically taken off site. If the user takes their device off site then the company data won’t leave with them because it will be on their VM. That way, should they lose their device or it gets stolen, no untrusted third parties would be able to view the data as they would not have access to the VM.
    The use of VMware VM’s also cuts out the issue of troubleshooting and hardware & software compatibility issues. The VM’s can be created from templates meaning that all users would be using the same applications whilst working from their own devices. Should a problem occur with the VM then IT support can fix quickly (and easily) from their own computers.

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