What is a BYOD policy?
Bring-your-own-device policies, often abbreviated as BYOD, are when organizations allow employees to use their personal devices — including cell phones, tablets, and computers — to connect to company resources.
In the era of hybrid and remote work, BYOD policies are incredibly commonplace. Lookout’s State of Remote Work Security 2023 report found that 92% of remote workers use personal tablets and smartphones for work tasks.
And while BYOD policies allow for increased flexibility and productivity, they also bring on new security challenges for IT departments. Lookout’s survey found that 43% of remote employees use their personal devices rather than company-issued equipment, and a majority of employees admit to doing personal tasks during work hours.
Another 60% admit to sending emails between work and personal accounts and 45% recycle passwords for work and personal accounts. All these stats add up to one big problem: when people use their personal devices for work, the risks they encounter in their personal lives also become risks for your organization.
Why do you need BYOD security?
BYOD policies allow people to work from anywhere and get more done, providing flexibility that enables your hybrid workforce to stay productive. But for IT departments, they also mean a newfound lack of visibility into what’s happening with corporate data.
When everyone was using corporate-issued devices, IT teams could accurately gauge the organization’s overall security posture. But with personal devices in the mix, you may not realize all the security risks your employees encounter. These devices are typically not enrolled in your organization’s device management solution, which means your IT and security teams have very little visibility into what kind of data the device is accessing, the apps installed, or the operation system level.
As more of your employees use their personal devices for work, these are some of the most common BYOD security risks your organization will face.
Increased phishing risks
The rise of hybrid work and BYOD policies has also coincided with a rise in phishing attacks. Attackers send different types of phishing messages to steal credentials or deploy malware, and personal devices are a particularly appealing target. Lookout’s Global State of Mobile Phishing Report found that in 2022, over half of all personal devices were exposed to mobile phishing attacks on a quarterly basis.
When employees use their personal devices to access corporate data, every BYOD device becomes a vector for potential data leakage. If a device is compromised, attackers can access any corporate data that’s stored on it. And even worse, they can use any credentials stored on the device to access data that’s stored on corporate networks.
Managed corporate devices typically have some sort of security program installed on them, but that’s not always the case for BYOD devices, and there’s no way for you to check. If a personal device doesn’t have any sort of security on it, employees become easy targets for malware. After a personal device is infected, malware can access any corporate resources that device has access to or the data already stored on the device.
Most employees would probably think twice before installing a dating app on a corporate-owned device, but they wouldn’t hesitate to install it on their personal phone. BYOD policies mean that corporate resources are commingling with apps and software that haven’t been approved by IT. Lookout found that one-third of all employees use unapproved apps and software, which results in shadow IT. Ultimately, this means you can’t ensure personal devices are safe places for corporate data.
Out-of-date devices and apps
With managed corporate devices, IT can force updates, but under a BYOD model, employees become responsible for making sure their devices are up to date. But they often don’t install updates as soon as they become available, leaving devices with unpatched vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers.
Best practices for BYOD security
Because BYOD devices introduce new risks to your organization, you need to step up your security to manage them. These are some of the BYOD security best practices that will help you keep both managed and unmanaged devices secure and protect your organization’s sensitive data.
Data protection regardless of the device
One of the biggest challenges surrounding BYOD security is that some of your organization’s data rests on personal devices that are outside of your visibility and control. To combat this, you need a BYOD security policy that includes comprehensive data loss prevention (DLP) technology. With a DLP solution, you can classify sensitive data and set data handling policies for how it can be used in order to prevent unintentional and malicious data leakage — even on personal devices. With enterprise digital rights management (EDRM), you can mask, redact, and watermark data so that access is restricted on BYOD devices, as well as encrypt data so you can enforce data security policies even on unmanaged devices.
Proactive access management
When people are working from personal devices, it can be challenging to ensure people are who they say they are. Credentials can be stolen, so you can’t rely on a binary yes-no approach to access. Instead, you need visibility into user behavior so you can identify risky behaviors and shut down potential threats. Insights into device health can also help you make more granular access decisions. If a device has an outdated operating system, has been exposed to a phishing or network threat, or doesn’t have proper antivirus software installed, you can restrict access accordingly.
Holistic mobile security
Mobile device management (MDM) was the go-to mobile solution when everyone was using corporate-owned devices, but MDM lacks continuous threat monitoring and, critically, can’t give you visibility into personal devices. Instead, you need a combination of mobile threat defense (MTD) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) to give you visibility into issues like outdated operating systems, risky data handling practices, and mobile phishing threats so that you can protect both managed and unmanaged devices without compromising employee privacy.
Zero-trust remote connection
You need a way to secure corporate resources when people use personal laptops and desktops to connect. VPNs used to be the go-to solution for remote access, but they can’t protect your organization from malware or compromised accounts, and they also slow down the productivity that comes along with remote work. Solutions like zero trust network access (ZTNA) and cloud access security brokers (CASB) can give remote users granular access to specific apps and data based on risk levels, providing seamless access and containing the risk of issues like insider threats and account takeover.
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BYOD Increases Mobile Phishing Rates, and the Risks Have Never Been Higher
Global data from Lookout found that in 2022, mobile phishing encounter rates were the highest they'd ever been, with one in three personal and enterprise devices being exposed to at least one attack every quarter.
Hybrid work environments and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies may be two reasons for the uptick. Organizations have had to accept that personal mobile devices can be used for professional purposes. Now, you need to keep in mind that every mobile device — whether it's personal or corporate owned, managed or unmanaged, iOS or Android — is susceptible to phishing attempts.
- How adversaries are leveraging avenues outside traditional email to conduct phishing on iOS and Android devices
- Real-world examples of phishing and app threats that have compromised organizations
- How an integrated endpoint-to-cloud security platform can detect threats and protect your organization