BYOD Use Expected to Double by 2014
The BYOD movement has already become a prevalent workplace activity, with smartphones, tablets, and mobile hotspots taking up residence in the office. However, a recent report by Juniper Research reveals that the practice is expected to double by 2014. Currently employed by approximately 150 million people, this figure should approach 350 million within the next couple of years, a number that represents 23 percent of all consumer-owned smartphones and tablets.
According to an article on InformationWeek, although the trend has received praise for increasing employee productivity, it has also been criticized for lax security measures. The Juniper report touched upon these concerns by calling BYOD "a security nightmare" for IT firms. Nitin Bhas, a contributing author of the report, believes that mobile devices are susceptible to the same threats as traditional desktop computers, including spam, malware, keyloggers, and phishing. Unfortunately, mobile devices are vulnerable to one additional danger - the loss or theft of the device itself.
Up until recently, device loss did not present an enormous security concern. Smartphones contained irrelevant texts, potentially embarrassing photos, and access to a few social media sites. Nowadays, mobile devices are used to store sensitive corporate information, predominantly on cloud-based applications. In fact, the Juniper report explains how cloud computing has been the catalyst for the adoption of the BYOD trend. Business users have become adept at storing corporate information on their smartphones, with the sole intention of completing unfinished work at a later date. The ability to access this data from outside of the workplace has enabled employees to increase their productivity, while simultaneously propelling BYOD into a full-scale movement.
Furthermore, the report looks into the growing security fears surrounding mobile payments. Juniper Research insists that these virtual wallets will attract cyber-criminals and seasoned hackers. Unless smartphones and tablets are fitted with fingerprint authentication, then short passcodes can be easily decoded using traditional methods. Not only will this pose a risk to the employee's personal finances, but it could also provide criminals with access to company bank accounts.
Therefore, midsize businesses should be extremely cautious about the growing use of personally-owned devices in the workplace. Hardware and software manufacturers are attempting to add personalized applications and a wider range of features to smartphones. In addition to text and voice calling, most devices will be fitted with NFC technology for mobile payments, feature calendaring, have email integration, and allow users to download an extensive list of productivity tools (such as Evernote, Dropbox, and Skype).
This means that mobile devices should be treated as equal to desktop computers, at least from a security standpoint. Companies should enforce strict mobile-device-management (MDM) policies and ensure that antivirus software is installed on all smartphones and tablets. It is also wise to avoid cloud storage for the most important company information; sometimes it is best to use physical storage methods instead.
Finally, it seems as though BYOD has become a permanent fixture. The Juniper Research report indicates that the movement will continue to grow with no end in sight. Consequently, IT will have to learn to deal with the accompanying security flaws and privacy issues. There is no debating that BYOD has officially become the business standard.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.