Top 4 Risks of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Why an Effective Mobile Device Management Solution Matters

Written by Kelsey Kinzer on May 19, 2022

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As a user-centric movement, the BYOD trend appears unstoppable. Fueled by hybrid working environments, BYOD is here to stay and companies need to find ways to address the risks posed by shadow IT systems. 

In this post, we’ll explore some of the most significant BYOD risks companies face today and how an effective mobile device management (MDM) solution can help you mitigate those risks.

Most Significant BYOD Security Risks Organizations Face Today

Security has always been a multi-faceted issue for organizations that leverage mobile device strategies such as BYOD, choose-your-own-device (CYOD), corporate-owned, personally enabled (COPE) devices, and corporate-owned, business-only (COBO) devices. 

However, the BYOD trend presents a more complex security environment than company-owned devices. For one, employee-owned endpoints usually contain employees’ personal information in addition to corporate data. 

In addition, it can be much harder to mandate (through technical or policy controls) certain configurations, application use, or how much an employee can engage in “personal,” i.e. non-work related, activities.

Below are some BYOD risks you should be aware of if your company decides to allow employees to use their preferred devices for work-related activities:

1. Unclear Security Expectations

What sets BYOD apart from other mobile device strategies such as COPE or COBO devices is the level of control it gives employees. This can be costly for the organization, especially if you place data security into the hands of inexperienced employees. 

In 2021, Security Boulevard reported that social engineering attacks — cybersecurity threats where threat actors manipulate employees into supplying sensitive data — rose by a staggering 270%.

Threat actors are increasingly leveraging social engineering tactics because of unclear security expectations. In some instances, employees can compromise the organization’s security by intentionally bypassing IT teams’ supervision. For example, employees may argue that they work faster if they can get around their company’s IT department. 

This scenario has led to the growth of shadow IT, where employees use endpoints, applications, and systems that the IT department has not sanctioned. 

2. Compromised Data

When employees use their preferred devices for work-related activities, any access to the enterprise network can pose a BYOD security risk. Threat actors can gain access to the device, especially if it gets lost or is stolen. 

Attackers can also compromise the employee’s device by launching phishing attacks while the device is still owned by the employee and compromise the enterprise’s data by:

  • Stealing data stored if it’s stored locally on the endpoint. 
  • Using the employee’s credential to access the enterprise network.
  • Destroying the data on the endpoint. 

3. Unsecured Wi-Fi Access

The ubiquitous use of free Wi-Fi outside of work and home environments by employees can create significant security risks to the company. Like most users, your employees will typically connect their endpoints through default settings, increasing the chances for Wi-Fi attacks such as: 

  • Snooping. Default settings that users leverage to connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots can leave them vulnerable to unencrypted or rogue access points. Employees who connect their endpoints to unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspots are open to snooping attacks. 
  • Honeypots. In this scenario, attackers can set up their own Wi-Fi hotspots or create fake service set identifiers (SSIDs) that appear legitimate to regular users. When a user connects, the attackers can start collecting data packets from the compromised mobile device. 

4. Malware

Mobile devices are commonly infected by malware, with users unaware that their endpoints have been affected. What’s even more disturbing is users often install many applications on their endpoints that they use only occasionally, and may not think about the permissions they grant to various applications. 

Threat actors can leverage these weaknesses to pinpoint the device’s locations, steal sensitive data, and even uninstall security applications on the fly. Data leakage can become a significant BYOD risk when the employee unknowingly shares the organization’s data with malicious third-party applications. 

BYOD Risk Management Strategies

BYOD is perhaps one of the most significant security threats in modern organizations. Yet, it’s seldom considered as such because the benefits of BYOD are alluring. For example, while the trend allows employees to leverage their own semi-private endpoints for work-related activities and utilize the resources they prefer, BYOD is also risky precisely because of these blurred lines between personal and company resources. 

How, then, should IT teams determine when the enterprise network is secure? Below are some risk management strategies that can help you navigate around BYOD challenges.

Device Management Considerations

You need to have a device management solution to keep track of each device, regardless of the operating system, and attach it to personally identifiable employee data. A device management solution can also help you control remote access to highly confidential data, provide employee authentication services, and even undertake remote data wiping in case the endpoint gets lost or stolen. 

Mobile Application Vetting

IT teams should carefully vet all the applications employees use on their mobile devices. Such a strategy should allow the organization to develop its own security requirements as a process for assessing the level of security for various applications. For example, IT teams can define how the data used by the application gets secured, acceptable risk levels, or circumstances where an application needs to be deployed. 

Ongoing Employee Training

Organizations should have a BYOD security policy in place and take the time to continuously educate employees about the BYOD policy. Employees need to clearly understand what they can and cannot do with their personal devices, why the company is enforcing BYOD policies, and what consequences they are likely to face for violating the policy. 

Zero Trust Security Approach

One of the core tenets of a Zero Trust security model is it recognizes that a security breach can occur at any time to any employee, irrespective of the network or the device they are using. Zero Trust solutions protect each corporate resource through the least privileged access rules, allowing employees to only access authorized resources. 

With the core ethos of trust nothing, verify everything, Zero Trust can do a lot to mitigate unauthorized access to IT resources even if the underlying device is compromised due to poor security hygiene or an inability to properly manage it.  

Why an Effective Mobile Device Management Solution Is Crucial in Mitigating BYOD Security Risks

The BYOD trend is great for organizations because it enhances employee efficiency while reducing equipment costs. However, it’s not so great for IT teams who have to manage many heterogeneous endpoints with increased security risks. 

With an effective MDM solution, IT teams can manage all of the organization’s endpoints, no matter their types or operating systems (OSs), and accomplish the following:

  • Device tracking. IT teams can easily monitor, update, and detect high-risk or non-compliant endpoints. They can even remotely lock or wipe such devices. 
  • Security enforcement. IT teams can easily update or patch outdated applications from a centralized console. 
  • Identity and access management. Great MDM solutions can allow IT teams to also manage employee identities associated with each endpoint. This way, each employee’s access to resources becomes fully regulated through features such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), role-based access (RBA), and single sign-on (SSO). 

The JumpCloud Directory Platform® is an all-in-one cloud-based MDM solution organizations can leverage to mitigate BYOD risks. IT teams can easily authenticate employees and device access, and manage each user and Windows, macOS, iOS, or Linux endpoint on the network.

Learn more about JumpCloud’s MDM solution and how to simplify BYOD management and security.

Kelsey Kinzer

Kelsey is a passionate storyteller and Content Writer at JumpCloud. She is particularly inspired by the people who drive innovation in B2B tech. When away from her screen, you can find her climbing mountains and (unsuccessfully) trying to quit cold brew coffee.

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