What is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)?

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What is BYOD?

Data from Statista suggests that almost every person owns at least one personal device they can use to communicate with coworkers, access company networks, or complete other forms of work. This ubiquitous nature of Internet-connected devices was particularly handy during the pandemic. Facing shelter-in-place orders, organizations found it easier to implement remote working protocols, with most employees already owning personal desktops, laptops, smartphones, or tablets.

However, many organizations were unprepared for the increasing security risks linked to remote working and personal device usage.

According to our Enduring from Home: COVID-19’s Impact on Business Security report, remote working resulted in a spike of 20% in cybersecurity breaches. 24% of our survey respondents said their organizations paid unexpected costs due to cybersecurity breaches.

Although the COVID-19 threat may be diluting, organizations continue to allow personal device usage to improve productivity and employee morale and reduce costs. However, they do so without sufficient mobile security.

As research from Zippa shows, 75% of employees use their devices for work. Some don’t even inform their IT departments that they’re utilizing personal devices for company-related matters.

Implementing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies is important in securing remote employees from threats. A robust BYOD policy can also shield your organization, clients, and business partners from several cybersecurity risks.

Read this in-depth guide for more information:

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BYOD meaning

What does BYOD stand for?

Let’s start with the most obvious question: what does BYOD stand for? BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device. As the name suggests, it means using personal devices for work.

BYOD definition: What does BYOD mean?

Companies implement BYOD policies to let employees use personally owned laptops or smartphones for work-related activities. At the same time, some schools carry BYOD policies to let children use their devices in the classroom.

Work-related BYOD tasks can include checking emails, connecting to company networks, and downloading and using company data and software.

But a BYOD policy is about more than allowing or disallowing people to use personal devices for official activities. Good BYOD guidelines set a framework for safe personal device usage.

For instance, a BYOD policy may outline that employees can only use personal devices for work when on a privacy VPN (Virtual Private Network) that improves their online security. Or it may ask workers to sign agreements outlining their responsibilities for top password security.

BYOD examples and risks

  • Smartphones: According to Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans own a smartphone. Threat actors can attack these devices to execute a data breach.
  • Tablets: Statista reports that most American adults own at least one tablet. These larger cousins of smartphones are just as vulnerable as smartphones to cyberattacks. 
  • Personal computers: Most American households have personal computers of some kind, including Windows-powered desktops and laptops, Macs, and MacBooks. Almost all personal computers can be hit with malware infections. Yes, even Macs can get viruses and other types of malware. 
  • Laptops: Laptops can pose more significant security risks than desktops and smartphones for multiple reasons. Employees who use laptops to work at restaurants, shopping malls, and airports may face network security risks on unsecured public WiFi. Laptops are also more vulnerable than smartphones to malware infections like viruses. And unlike desktops, laptops can also be misplaced or stolen. 
  • USB drives: Personal USB drives can be an infection vector for viruses, Trojans, or ransomware. Threat actors may also leverage USB drives for social engineering attacks like baiting.
  • Hard drives: Like USB drives, portable hard drives can be an infection vector for malware. Security features like device control can help mitigate your risk of malware attacks introduced by unauthorized portable devices.

How does BYOD work?

BYOD works by allowing employees to use personal devices for work while accepting policies surrounding the usage of said devices. It is built on a trust system. Organizations trust that their employees will not misuse company data, applications, usernames and passwords. With BYOD, companies also expect their staff to use personal devices responsibly.

BYOD policy best practices

An effective BYOD policy may outline the:

  • Types of devices employees may use for work.
  • List of enterprise applications accessible from personal devices.
  • Grades of support given to personal devices.
  • Kind of sensitive data that a personal device can store.
  • Installation of Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) software on personal devices used for business.
  • Installation of device tracing and corporate data wiping software. 
  • Updating and patching protocols.
  • Usage of corporate VPN accounts for network security.
  • Procedures for backing up data.
  • List of blacklisted apps.
  • Contingency plans for cybersecurity attacks and device loss.
  • Plan for offboarding employees.
  • Reimbursement policy for expenses incurred during work.

Employees may also have to agree to rules that invade their privacy and personal freedoms in order to use personal devices for work. For instance, some organizations may install monitoring tools to ensure that employees are working during company hours. Other companies may demand that staff avoid visiting high-risk websites on personal machines.

Organizations usually implement cybersecurity training courses as a part of their BYOD policies too. For instance, any employee using personal devices for work must undergo basic online security training that covers phishing attack mitigation practices, good password hygiene, and more.

The importance of BYOD security

BYOD security is essential because we’re creatures of habit and threat actors are on the prowl for endpoint vulnerabilities.

As mentioned, employees are habitually using personal devices for work. Some fail to inform IT departments of personal device usage. Even high-profile figures like national leaders are not immune to breaking protocol and using personal devices to manage sensitive files.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, BYOD security risks are higher because personal devices are usually less secure than company machines. Personal devices may not have cybersecurity tools. Employees may also use personal devices for riskier activity, like visiting unsafe websites, downloading potentially malicious software, or implementing modifications.

Good BYOD security policies reduce the risk of:

  • Ransomware and other malware attacks.
  • Extortion.
  • Data exfiltration.
  • Data loss.
  • Social engineering attacks.

BYOD security solutions

The best BYOD security solutions can improve security visibility, reduce endpoint risk, and offer incident management. Two of the top BYOD security tools include Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions and Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services.

In the EDR vs. MDR comparison, what is best for your organization?

EDR solutions leverage threat hunting, data analysis, and remediation to remediate various online attacks. Such attacks targeting remote devices may include malware like ransomware, brute force, and zero-day inclusions.

On the other hand, MDR is a service that meshes threat intelligence technologies and the human aspect of top experts. MDR delivers round-the-clock monitoring and detection, proactive threat hunting, prioritization of alerts, correlated data analysis, managed threat investigation, and remediation.

The primary difference between the two solutions is scale. In a nutshell, EDR solutions enhance a business’s cybersecurity measures but need resources and IT personnel. MDR services combine threat intelligence with human expertise. With MDR, your business gains outsourced cybersecurity professional services at a reasonable cost, reducing in-house alert fatigue.

And instead of just detecting and responding, your organization can expertly hunt cyberthreats with MDR by utilizing past and newly reported indicators of compromise (IOCs).

We believe that MDR can drive business growth in the following ways:

  • Dwell time reduction: The longer a threat actor has after infiltrating your network through a vulnerable endpoint, the more damage they can do. MDR can stop lateral movements before they fester by taking advantage of a research-based and active hunting approach.
  • Resource management: Your IT team may have better things to do than observe your environment at all hours of the day. Fatigue from constant monitoring can cause data loss and operational downtime. An MDR team drives growth by freeing up resources.
  • Improved products/services: With more time and resources, you can fuel business growth. You can also implement BYOD policies more confidently, reducing costs, boosting workflow, and increasing revenue.

Your organization should answer the following questions when picking a BYOD security solution:

  1. What type of risks does my organization face?
  2. Who will be managing the security solutions?
  3. How much expertise and time does my IT team have to manage the security workload?
  4. Does my company need a turnkey solution, or does it have the cybersecurity talent to utilize EDR?
  5. What are my organization’s resource limitations?

Pros and cons of BYOD: BYOD advantages and disadvantages

Allowing employees to use personal devices for work has its advantages and disadvantages. The primary advantages of BYOD include lower operational expenses and improved productivity. The biggest risks involve security breaches. Some organizations with sufficient resources reduce the risks associated with BYOD by providing company smartphones and laptops to employees.

Benefits of BYOD

Lower costs

BYOD allows companies to shift hardware and software costs from the employer to the employee. With BYOD, companies save on purchasing, maintenance, upgrades, replacement and other expenses.

Familiarity with technology

Familiarity with the technology they already own makes employees more efficient. On the other hand, learning how to use a new laptop or mobile phone with an unfamiliar operating system can take time.

Better technology

Organizations usually provide basic devices and computers to employees to save costs. By comparison, their employees have more cutting-edge personal devices that can run productivity apps more quickly.

Fast onboarding

Training new employees to use company devices with unfamiliar software and hardware can be time-consuming. Additionally, shipping company equipment can be pricey and take weeks. With a BYOD policy, new employees can start working much faster.

Higher productivity levels

Some studies suggest that BYOD employees could be more effective. They may also work more per day. For instance, an internal review of Intel’s BYOD program shows that productivity rose by nearly an hour per day.

Convenience

Employees with personal and company laptops and smartphones face the inconvenience of using, storing, carrying and maintaining multiple devices. Multiple devices in the pocket or bag are more challenging to track and use for work. On the other hand, employees can easily switch from work to personal use on one device.

Disadvantages of BYOD and BYOD security risks

Lack of control over hardware

Organizations can install different types of monitoring, locating, and security tools on a personal device, but they still need to trust an employee to follow company guidelines. Ultimately, they don’t have as much control over personal devices as they do over company hardware.

Risk of malware

Both company and personal devices are vulnerable to malware through phishing attacks on email or text messages. However, personal devices can have higher exposure as employees may use them to visit malicious websites or download pages that carry malware. 

Vulnerability to a data breach

A BYOD policy makes an organization more vulnerable to a data breach. For example, unauthorized parties with access to a personal device can leverage it for data exfiltration. Disgruntled ex-employees may also use company apps on personal devices to attack data.

Stolen and lost devices

According to Gartner, laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. A misplaced laptop or device carrying company data or accessing company networks can be a significant cybersecurity risk.

Hacking

Even with good security policies, BYOD means your organization has more vulnerable endpoints. In other words, hackers have a larger attack surface to target your company.

Access to unsecured WiFi

Employees who use their own devices for work and personal needs may not hesitate to check their email or communicate on social media on unsecured WiFi connections. On such connections, all data on a device is vulnerable, personal and company.

Lack of privacy

A BYOD policy can result in privacy concerns for an employee and the organization. An employee’s sensitive data can be exposed to a company’s IT team. Likewise, an organization’s intellectual property, marketing collateral, and other confidential information may be exposed to anyone controlling an employee’s personal device.

Distractions

Although data suggests that BYOD improves productivity, personal devices can be more distracting for some people who may have entertainment apps on personal devices. Even researching on a personal device can be more distracting because cookies result in more targeted online advertising.

Multiple users

People are likely to put their company-issued devices after work hours, but the same can’t be said for personal devices. In a busy household, a BYOD model means that a device with company assets may be accessible to a staff member’s partner, children, and guests. Outsiders can see classified information, open phishing links, or download blacklisted apps on a personal device resulting in data leaks.

CYOD vs BYOD

CYOD stands for Choose Your Own Device. In the CYOD model, employees can choose from a limited number of company-approved devices for work. The devices are usually purchased and managed by the organization. CYOD offers organizations more security while providing employees with the freedom to choose hardware they may be familiar with.

COPE vs BYOD

COPE stands for Company Owned Personally/Enabled. In a COPE program, an employee can use a company smartphone for some basic personal functions like calls and messaging. COPE programs allow employees to use only one device, though they may still have two devices. For instance, they may switch from a company device to a personal device after work hours end. COPE offers organizations excellent security while giving employees a little flexibility.

The history of BYOD

Although the term BYOD was coined by VoIP service provider BroadVoice in 2004, it didn’t hit popularity until 2009, when Intel realized its employees were using personal devices to connect to the corporate network. A couple of years later, IT services provider Unisys and software supplier Citrix Systems also noticed that BYOD was becoming a trend.

The future of BYOD in the workplace

Despite the security risks, BYOD shall continue to be a feature of workplaces in the future. Organizations reap significant benefits from BYOD, including enhanced productivity, faster onboarding, lower costs, and higher earnings. Employees enjoy familiarity, flexibility, and creativity.

Expect larger organizations to mitigate BYOD risks with stronger security policies, better endpoint protection, and greater control over personal devices. Smaller businesses may continue BYOD with a Bring Your Own Security (BYOS) setup, packaged with computer hygiene training, VPN usage, data encryption policies, and fair guidelines.

In a report called BYOD and Enterprise Mobility – Global Market Trajectory & Analytics, Global Industry Analysts (GIA) claims that the market size for BYOD and enterprise mobility will jump from over $84.4 billion in 2022 to $157.3 billion by 2026, rowing at a CAGR of 16.7% over the analysis period. Is your organization ready?

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Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) FAQs

What is an example of BYOD?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a developing trend in which employees’ own hardware devices are used in the workplace. The most prevalent use cases, include smartphones, tablets, computers, and USB drives that employees bring to use in the workplace.

How secure is BYOD devices?

The BYOD model is only as secure as your company’s endpoint security and mobile security technologies. Solutions such as Mobile Device Management (MDM) can facilitate improved company device management and best practices, but ultimately MDM can’t replace antimalware products for business.