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Mobile Device Management

Is BYOD Like Taking Your Boss Home With You?

The BYOD debate is one that divides many in the IT industry. Some think it’s hyped up, while others believe it is one of the biggest challenges facing the enterprise today.

People want to use one device for work and pleasure, and they want to be the ones to choose which device they use.

However, IT wants to remain in control. That means IT has to move from provisioning devices (which workers don’t really want to use anyway) to provisioning applications instead. Letting workers use their own device means IT just has to control the applications, access policies and data flow, just as it does away from the mobile side of things.

A point which I’ve been considering lately is that with BYOD, is your device really your device anymore? If a company needs to see what’s on your device then it can, and there isn’t much the employee can do about it. A recent article I read on the theme even suggested the BYOD is like letting your boss snoop around your house while you’re not there and this struck me as a really interesting way of looking at what’s become a topic discussed at length in many businesses.

If a worker is using their own device for work purposes then the business may want to access and analyse the phone or tablet at some point. There are a variety of reasons for this; it could be over fears the worker is leaking sensitive emails or something much more mundane, like the need to update apps and settings. Some commentators have argued that the only way to completely protect your personal data and information is to not keep any on the device you are using for work. But this totally defeats the object, and I for one don’t agree with this view as there are ways to totally separate the personal and business side of the device.

Mobile Application Management (MAM) is something I’d recommend that businesses, and even employees, look into. This approach means the business only has access to the business part of the device, and, perhaps more importantly, business data can only be accessed while using the business side of the device. When a worker is using it as their personal device, they are unable to access any sensitive data.

It also means IT can manage a device just as if it had handed it out itself. If it has security concerns about an app then that app cannot be downloaded. Worried about accidentally sharing information on Facebook? Then don’t allow Facebook to run when the device is in business mode; save that for personal time.

With MAM, the device can only access the corporate network when it is in business mode, meaning IT can manage it like any other device that wants to connect to the network. Access policies will determine exactly what the worker can access from their device. If they cannot access certain data from their work PC, policies should dictate that they cannot access that data from their mobile device.

There is no doubt that it is a fine balancing act - making sure workers can access the data they need to do their jobs while ensuring appropriate levels of authentication are in place to protect all that sensitive data. Once businesses have a full understanding of what types of devices are being used, what data needs to be accessed and where it is being accessed from, a fully robust set of access management policies can be put in place.

This will mean employees can do their work from the device they want to, safe in the knowledge that their personal data will remain private, and the business knows its sensitive information is also secure. With mobile phones, tablets and laptops increasingly reflecting our lifestyles and storing photographs, personal emails and data, this approach should also ensure that employees don’t feel as though, by agreeing to business policies for their device management, they’re also letting their boss snoop around their lives outside of the working environment.

 

Joakim Sundberg is a Security Solution Architect at F5 Networks

 

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Joakim Sundberg

Joakim Sundberg is Worldwide Security Solution Architect at F5

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