Written by: Daniel Haurey on 02/29/24

While bring your own device (BYOD) has been a viable business technology option for more than a decade, the increased number of companies embracing remote work has pushed BYOD usage to new heights. Increased engagement, alongside the real cybersecurity threats that accompany BYOD, means a BYOD policy is no longer an option – it’s a necessity.  

BYOD presents a balancing act for businesses, offering benefits like employee productivity and cost savings while introducing cybersecurity challenges. But navigating through the process to create a BYOD policy is worth the time and trouble to ensure your employees understand their responsibilities as well as the usage and security rules in place to protect both them and company data.

The Benefits and Advantages of BYOD

Nearly everyone has access to personal devices such as laptops, smartphones, or tablets that offer the reliability, speed, and capacity equal, if not superior, to business technology counterparts, and with the popularity of work from home, BYOD has become mainstream. The benefits of BYOD are clear:

  • Improved productivity: Employees using their own devices are more comfortable and often more efficient, leading to increased productivity.
  • Cost savings: BYOD reduces the financial burden on the organization for device procurement and maintenance.
  • Increased flexibility: BYOD policies contribute to a more flexible work environment, meeting the demand for work-life balance improvements.
  • Employee satisfaction: By leveraging personal devices, employees can truly work anywhere, anytime on technology that they prefer – from device type to brand.
  • Innovation: Individuals often invest more frequently in innovative technology, enabling savvy employees to try out cutting-edge devices without a company-wide investment.

That said, many of the advantages can easily flip into challenges when it comes to managing and securing your business data. For example, innovative new apps on your employee’s personal device can be difficult to support. Using a personal device for both business and pleasure can mean exposure to unsecured WiFi networks, putting your entire environment at risk for a breach. Other considerations:

  • Complex support: When your organization owns business technology tools, support is standardized and easily documented. When you attempt to support BYOD, the process can become complicated. If you outsource IT support, it may be even more challenging for that service provider to delineate between BYOD and truly personal devices, and know what to support and when.
  • Limited control: When your organization doesn’t own the hardware, it becomes difficult to limit app downloads—even when those choices may create vulnerabilities that can impact your business network.
  • Cybersecurity controls and vulnerabilities: One of the biggest challenges of BYOD is protecting personal devices from sophisticated security threats with little control and limited access. Data breaches and malware injections slipped into a personal device can quickly infiltrate the company network, bypassing otherwise stalwart defenses.
  • Theft: A lost or stolen device without the proper controls in place can provide unguarded access to confidential or sensitive information on the device, but also on your network.
  • Legal and compliance risk: If your employee is keeping business data on a personal device considered less than secure, you may be violating compliance requirements.

The Complicated Role of Privacy

Resolving these issues leads organizations to solutions that may raise concerns about employee privacy. For example, how do you balance the ability to scrub data from a stolen device with privacy? One of the most important aspects of strong BYOD policies is understanding the sensitive nature of personal devices and designing BYOD rules with respect for personal privacy. To accomplish that:

  • Set well-defined boundaries: Establish clear guidelines on what company data can be accessed using BYOD options and how that data is managed on those personal devices.
  • Use consent-based monitoring: Any monitoring software installed for security purposes is done with full transparency and consent of the employee.
  • Schedule regular audits: Create a cadence of audits that ensure company and personal data is secure and private.

An often overlooked aspect of a successful BYOD policy is clarity around the reasons behind the rules, and the shared responsibility of BYOD. BYOD is a benefit offered by some organizations; it is not an option that every company is willing to offer. When provided with the flexibility of BYOD, employees should agree to adhere to security protocols, ensure devices meet safety standards outlined in the BYOD policy, and report any breaches, theft, risks, or other threats promptly.  

On the flip side, while an organization certainly has the right to install necessary security software, such as mobile device management (MDM) solutions, on equipment used for work purposes as part of its BYOD policy, it should also provide clear communications about how those solutions work in terms of employee privacy and personal data. Many organizations find that once employees fully grasp BYOD security risks and privacy regulations, they are more likely to understand the challenge of balancing BYOD benefits and user privacy and embrace BYOD best practices.

Elements of a Successful BYOD Policy

Every organization has differing needs—from the type of data it handles and stores to what compliance standards it must meet to the size and technical experience of its workforce. That means no two BYOD policies will be the same. However, BYOD best practices can provide the framework for an effective policy—starting with a commitment to having a written policy in place that provides clear instructions and expectations around the use of personal devices for work purposes.

  • Define device and user profiles: Identify which types of personal devices can be used and who is authorized to use them.
  • Outline network access: Establish different levels of data and network access based on user roles and device types.
  • Data security measures: Implement encryption, secure connections (VPNs), and regular security audits. Define and require password protection for all devices and applications used to access company information.
  • User privacy: Respect user privacy by limiting monitoring to work-related activities and data.
  • Understanding liability: Explain potential legal implications for both the organization and the employee.
  • Compliance: Ensure the policy adheres to relevant data protection laws (like GDPR, HIPAA, etc.).
  • Document risk tolerance: Identify situations where personal devices pose too great a risk and offer company equipment with enhanced security measures for those scenarios.
  • Guidance for device updates: Educate users on keeping device operating systems updated.
  • Theft and loss reporting: Create a process for reporting and managing lost or stolen devices.
  • Employee training: Conduct regular training sessions on the safe and responsible use of personal devices as part of ongoing security awareness training.
  • Adherence to policy: Set clear expectations on what happens if an employee violates the policy.
  • Continuous policy review: Regularly review and update the policy.
  • Monitor and report: Set up systems to monitor compliance and report any breaches.

Implementing an effective BYOD policy is crucial in today’s technology-driven work environment. It’s about finding the right balance between flexibility and control and then clearly articulating the policy and providing ongoing training. You’ll likely find your employees are willing to adhere to a reasonable policy in exchange for the freedom of BYOD.

Have you read our blog on key policies to have in place at your organization?