BYOD offers promise, but takes its toll on IT departments

Mobile support is becoming more and more common. But while companies see the benefits, IT is often left struggling to support this influx of devices. 

A Blancco Technology Report study of BYOD security has found that many organizations are struggling with the security concerns presented by personal mobile devices in the business environment. There’s nothing terribly surprising about that on its face, but it seems to highlight a problem many organizations have: There’s tremendous support for BYOD in general, but security teams are feeling the pressure to keep up.ThinkstockPhotos-497575676

Popular model for companies

The wide-ranging report found that only 13% of organizations have no plans to ever enter the BYOD arena (an additional 3% tried, but abandoned, the model). On the other hand:

  • 40% make it available to all employees, and
  • 32% offer it for select employees.

Another 9% plan to start a BYOD program in the coming year.

Why is this model so popular? According to the research, the main drivers of BYOD adoption were:

  • improved employee mobility (61%)
  • greater employee satisfaction (56%), and
  • increased employee productivity (55%).

There are downsides

On the other hand, IT pros were often left dealing with the fallout from BYOD problems. By far, the biggest barrier to adoption of BYOD was security concerns at 39%. (Interestingly, 21% of respondents said BYOD may provide added security, however their reasons for saying so weren’t explored in this survey.)

Other barriers to adoption included employee privacy concerns (12%), not seeing a need for mobile devices in the workplace (7%) or companies electing to go with employer-provided mobile devices (7%).

Biggest concerns

So just what has IT pros so concerned about BYOD? Plenty.

Respondents said they were worried about:

  • data loss (72%)
  • unauthorized access to company systems or data (56%)
  • users downloading unsafe apps or content (54%), and
  • malware (52%).

And these weren’t just hypothetical concerns. Many IT pros reported they’d already seen mobile threats within their organizations.

More than one-in-five companies (21%) have had a mobile breach in the past. And an additional 37% weren’t sure whether mobile devices had been breached or not (42% said they definitely hadn’t).

In addition, 24% said mobile devices connected to malicious WiFi (48% weren’t sure) and 39% said they’d seen malware on these devices (with 35% unsure).

Help … isn’t on the way

For most IT pros, supporting and securing BYOD probably won’t be an option. It’s been almost inevitable for a while now, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Unfortunately, budgets aren’t adjusting to these realities. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said their security budget is going to stay flat. Seven percent will see a decline.

Mobile device management programs could help to lessen some BYOD risks. But regardless of whether this tool is available to you or not, the best step to take is to look at potential mobile risks and triage for the most serious ones.

Other steps:

  • Make sure your BYOD policy is rock-solid and enforced.
  • Encourage users to get on safe versions of their mobile operating system, and
  • Educate all users (but especially those with privileged access) on mobile risks.