We’ve quickly become very dependent on our smart devices. The average Brit checks their phone 28 times a day; that’s almost twice per hour if they get 8 hours of sleep. So it’s no wonder that personal mobile devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops – have become a very common sight in the modern workplace. Not only that, but with the rise of remote working, people are doing more and more work on their own devices.
However, connecting personal mobile devices to secure corporate networks comes with its risks, as personal devices are vulnerable to many cybersecurity threats. To protect your organisation’s private data from unsavoury characters, you need a strong strategy for protecting these devices and the company data they have access to.
That’s why today, we’re sharing our thoughts and advice on two tools that can help you do just that: personal mobile device policy and MDM software.
The rise of BYOD culture
The practice of using your personal devices in the workplace is commonly referred to as ‘BYOD’, or bring your own device. The good thing about BYOD culture is that it supports flexible working. Your employees will be able to work from anywhere: they can finish up a presentation on the train or send an urgent email while out of the office.
This, in turn, makes for more satisfied, efficient employees. If employees are able to do all of their work on devices of their own, there are also reduced equipment costs.
However, there are also significant risks that this presents. Even if your employees have gone through extensive cybersecurity awareness training, this isn’t enough to properly protect your organisation’s data. Even the savviest employees can’t always stay on top of safety best practices without guidance. That’s why strong endpoint protection policies when it comes to the use of personal mobile devices is so important.
What to include in a personal mobile device policy?
‘Bring your own device’ culture is already a reality and there’s not much you can do about it: you don’t want to ban people’s own devices from the office outright. This is where a strong personal mobile device policy comes in. Your policy around personal smartphones, tablets and laptops can help you safeguard your company’s intel by addressing issues that aren’t addressed by the antivirus products you use and aren’t supervised by your IT department.
You should set guidelines around personal device use, for example addressing applications not to use and websites you shouldn’t browse while connected to company wifi. It’s a good idea to make it mandatory that all devices used on the office network have a PIN code to restrict access.
You could also put rules in place about restricting apps and websites from gathering sensitive material like location data when employees use their own devices for work. Another important thing you need to address is what happens to these personal mobile devices when an employee leaves: is cached business data wiped? Is access to company systems simply blocked?
What is MDM software?
A personal mobile device policy can be very helpful for a wide variety of organisations. However, it’s not foolproof, and some organisations would benefit from strengthening theirs with software. This is where mobile device management (MDM) tools come in.
Your organisation’s asset register allows you to keep track of your company-owned devices and similarly, your MDM can make sure personal devices are kept as safe as possible. These MDM tools usually come in the form of a cloud-based suite that offers a centralised platform that helps manage personal devices that are used on secure corporate networks or to access sensitive company data remotely.
An MDM suite usually includes tools like hardware inventory, the ability to deploy, update and delete certain apps and mobile content management. Actions can be executed remotely, meaning that the admin of your MDM suite can remotely wipe devices that have been lost or stolen and view and control devices for troubleshooting. This makes MDM software a very useful resource for remote teams where employees largely work on their personal devices.
MDM software also controls employees’ access to content repositories where they can pull files from and onto their device. It can put limitations on the amount of data that can be downloaded onto a personal device when data roaming is turned on and track who is opening and downloading files. This can help you pinpoint the source of the leak if your data ever ends up being compromised.
Your employees usually also get access to a secure storage app with an MDM suite. This is a secure folder they can download onto their device to add a layer of protection around company information stored on their personal device.
Limitations of MDM software
However good the tools included in it are, no MDM suite is absolutely foolproof, and all of them come with their limitations. For example, some VPN tools only partially protect a device’s network communications, meaning that MDM software can’t fully protect company data on these VPNs.
When it comes to mobile phones and tablets, MDM tools installed onto a device can’t provide foolproof protection. This is because OS manufacturers don’t give full access to their code to MDM vendors, which means they can’t take full control over these devices. As operating systems evolve very quickly, MDM vendors also often struggle to keep up with these changes.
Do I need mobile device management for my organisation?
So what should you do with all this information? Do you need a personal device policy, MDM software or both? Having some basic rules in place is definitely a good thing, though you need to consider if you have the ability to actually make sure they’re being followed and whether having guidelines in place is enough to discourage risky behaviour even if you’re not actively checking for it.
An MDM suite can help you make sure that these rules are actually being followed. That being said, not every organisation necessarily needs a software product like this. If you’re on the fence about whether your organisation needs MDM software, try to estimate how much a data breach could potentially cost your organisation and compare this to the price of an MDM software you’re considering.
Under GDPR, the responsibility for data losses is on individual organisations and the failure to safeguard sensitive data could lead to some pretty harsh financial penalties. Because of this, especially organisations in the healthcare and banking industries might find MDM software a very useful resource worth the investment.
BYOD culture and remote working are realities that organisations shouldn’t try to ignore or suppress. That’s why having some kind of a strategy for the use of personal mobile devices is definitely advisable. This could mean anything from mobile device use guidelines to a more robust set policy that is inspected regularly through something like spot inspections. You might also find that an MDM software suite would benefit your organisation.
If you would like some help in figuring out what your organisation needs from its personal mobile device management strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts. We can advise you on policy and help you get to grips with our preferred MDM software product MaaS360 if we find that it would be beneficial for your organisation.