From 2019 to 2021, there was a significant increase in the percentage of individuals working primarily from home in the United States. Data from the 2021 American Community Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the number of remote workers more than tripled, rising from approximately 9 million people to 27.6 million people during this time.
As more organizations embrace remote and hybrid work models, the BYOD (bring your own device) policy phenomenon has taken center stage. In this article, we'll dive into six major cybersecurity risks associated with using personal devices for work and offer practical tips to help you avoid potential pitfalls.
The Top Cybersecurity Risks of Bring Your Own Device Policies
In this new world of remote and hybrid work, many of us have traded in our office desks for cozy kitchen tables and swapped suits for sweatpants. The convenience of smartphones, tablets, and laptops has revolutionized how we work, allowing us to access emails, systems, and files anytime, anywhere.
While the ability to seamlessly switch between devices is undeniably alluring, BYOD practices can expose businesses to a host of cybersecurity threats, making it essential for IT teams to adopt proactive measures that help keep these risks at bay.
1. Data Leakage
Data leakage occurs when sensitive information, such as company files or personal information, is unintentionally exposed or shared. This risk is particularly high with personal devices as they are often used to access both work and personal accounts, making it easier for data to be accidentally shared, misplaced, or intercepted.
Employees may also use unsecured or public Wi-Fi networks to access company resources, which can lead to data interception and leakage. Moreover, personal devices often lack the same security measures as corporate-owned devices, like data encryption, secure boot, or VPN access.
Companies can help prevent data leakage by implementing robust mobile device management systems and enforcing strict security protocols like data encryption and regular software updates. Providing employee training on safe data handling practices and creating clear usage guidelines are also essential to minimize risks associated with personal devices.
2. Malware Infection
Malware infections pose another significant cybersecurity risk for organizations that allow employees to use personal devices for work.
Personal devices are more likely to be infected with malware, as users may not adhere to the same security standards they would when using a company-owned device. They might download apps from untrusted sources or visit unsafe websites, potentially exposing their devices to malware infections.
Once a personal device is infected, the malware can easily spread to the corporate network when the user connects their device to it. Malware can also spread through the organization's cloud services, email, or file-sharing platforms.
To mitigate malware infection concerns, companies should enforce the use of up-to-date antivirus software and require regular device security scans. Furthermore, educating employees on safe browsing habits and the importance of using secure connections can help prevent malware infections on personal devices.
3. Insufficient Security Controls
Personal devices often lack the security controls and monitoring capabilities found on corporate-owned devices. Companies may find it challenging to enforce security policies or remotely manage these devices, leading to weaker overall security. For example, a personal device may not have the latest security patches installed, leaving it vulnerable to known exploits.
Additionally, employees may not have the same awareness regarding cybersecurity practices on their personal devices as they do on their work devices. This can result in weak or reused passwords, lack of two-factor authentication, or failure to lock devices when not in use, all of which can lead to unauthorized access.
Companies can mitigate insufficient security controls by implementing strict access controls, such as multi-factor authentication and role-based permissions. Regularly auditing and updating security measures can also help maintain robust protection for company data accessed on personal devices. In addition, proper utilization of password management solutions is a simple yet effective way to mitigate these core security risks.
4. Phishing Attacks
Phishing attacks remain a top cybersecurity risk for organizations, and using personal devices for work can exacerbate this threat. Employees may be more susceptible to phishing attacks on their personal devices, as they may not be as vigilant about scrutinizing emails or messages from unknown sources.
Moreover, employees may use the same email address for work and personal purposes, increasing the risk of successful phishing attempts. Attackers can exploit personal information, such as interests or social media activity, to create highly targeted and convincing phishing emails.
To prevent potential phishing attacks, companies should provide ongoing cybersecurity training emphasizing phishing awareness and teach employees to recognize and report suspicious emails. Implementing email filtering technologies and advanced threat protection can also help detect and block phishing attempts before they reach users' inboxes.
5. Unauthorized Access to Sensitive Information
When personal devices are used for work, there is an increased risk of unauthorized access to sensitive corporate data. This can occur if the device is lost, stolen, or left unattended, allowing unauthorized individuals to access the device.
Personal devices often lack the advanced security features of corporate-owned devices, such as encryption, strong passwords, and multi-factor authentication. Without these additional security measures in place, it becomes easier for cybercriminals to access the device and the sensitive information stored on it. Furthermore, personal devices are more likely to be shared among family members or friends, increasing the risk of unintentional access to confidential data.
Companies can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information due to BYOD by implementing strict access controls, such as multi-factor authentication, role-based permissions, and secure VPN connections. Furthermore, using machine learning-powered tools to log user activity and monitor and analyze user behavior can help detect potential security breaches, such as unauthorized access attempts or unusual login patterns.
Although machine learning is mostly used in business to improve performance and analytics, manage risks, assess market opportunities, and reduce operating costs, its use in cybersecurity is growing. In fact, 47% of IT companies reported increasing their machine learning budgets by up to 25% in 2020.
6. Inconsistent Software Updates and Patches
Personal devices typically have inconsistent software updates and patches, leaving them vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Users may neglect to update their devices or applications regularly, as they are not managed by an IT department that enforces timely updates.
Outdated software and apps may contain exploitable security vulnerabilities, which can expose an organization's network and data to potential attacks, as a compromised personal device can serve as an entry point for attackers to infiltrate the company's systems.
Companies can maintain consistent software updates and patches in BYOD environments by enforcing a policy requiring employees to regularly update their devices' operating systems and applications. On top of this, incorporating mobile device management (MDM) solutions can help monitor, manage, and enforce software updates across all personal devices accessing the corporate network.
Find the Right Cybersecurity Solution for Your Organization
Using personal devices for work comes with several cybersecurity risks that companies must address proactively. While organizations can take steps to mitigate these risks, one crucial aspect that they cannot overlook is the effective management of passwords. A secure and efficient way to manage passwords is using a password manager like TeamPassword.
TeamPassword provides an encrypted platform that enables users to store strong, unique passwords for every account. This level of security ensures the protection of sensitive data and helps prevent unauthorized access to personal and work-related accounts.
As an individual, it's essential to understand the importance of password security and how it impacts the safety of your personal and work-related data. By using a trusted password manager like TeamPassword, you can confidently navigate the digital landscape without compromising your organization's overall security.