Security
11 BYOD Security Risks & How to Prevent Them

11 BYOD Security Risks & How to Prevent Them

It’s tempting for organizations to let employees use their devices for work. It saves money, is convenient for users, and allows corporate network access. However, “bring your own device” (BYOD) arrangements can lead to serious security risks compared to issuing company-owned devices.

BYOD sets up myriad endpoints outside the organization’s central security hub, making it exceedingly difficult for security leaders to monitor all devices and apps. Personal devices won’t have the same security standards or protocols that organization-owned ones will, and employees with poor security practices on personal apps could become a security threat to the organization. It just takes one malicious actor cracking someone’s overly-used Facebook password to gain legitimate access to organizational resources.

Here, we assess some of the most common BYOD security risks and explore how to prevent them.

11 BYOD Security Risks

From data exfiltration to a lost device, BYOD can risk the organization in many ways. Some security concerns may evolve into unintentional insider threats; some may make it easy for external attackers to access organizational resources.

1. Data Leaks

Sharing privileged data outside of the organization is one of the easiest mistakes. It’s even easier when employees juggle personal and professional communication channels on the same device. Suppose an employee’s email client defaults to their email. In that case, they may not notice when sending a strategy document on their laptop from their individual rather than professional email. That exposes the company to the risk of that document falling into the wrong hands.

Data leaks happen all the time, and they’re not always intentional. They can occur from a range of devices with less robust security measures. With many personal device endpoints mixing business and individual activity, BYOD makes it even easier for people to make mistakes that lead to leaks.

2. Malicious Insider Threats

Cybersecurity Insiders’ 2023 Insider Threat Report found that 74% of organizations are at least moderately vulnerable to insider threats. Organizations that use BYOD are even more at risk because it’s much more difficult for security teams to monitor employee-owned devices that aren’t connected to a central security network.

While many insider threats are unintentional and potential risks can be avoided by quality employee training, malicious insider threats have a motive to cause the organization harm, and they want to avoid detection. Using personal devices makes evading employee monitoring systems and security tools easier.

teramind free trial

3. Compliance Enforcement

Companies in many industries must navigate legal and regulatory standards. Especially in tech, organizations must comply with data handling standards to avoid violating privacy laws. However, compliance requires constant, complete organizational buy-in from the rank-and-file to the CEO.

When employees use personal devices, it’s easy to get complacent regarding compliance laws. You’re not considering data compliance standards when scrolling through social media or sharing pictures with friends and family. When people get complacent, it’s easy to commit compliance violations accidentally.

4. Stolen or Lost Devices

Security leaders can lock it down remotely if an organization-owned device goes missing. However, securing a personal device from afar presents a more significant security challenge. If employees store company resources, access keys, or other privileged information on their devices, stolen or lost devices can become a potential security risk.

There isn’t a need for malicious intent toward a company for device theft to present a security issue.

5. Malware

Most people don’t invest in potent cybersecurity solutions on their devices. As such, BYOD setups can leave those personal devices and, by extension, employers vulnerable to various cyber attacks, including malware attacks. Hackers and other threat actors can inject malicious applications into personal devices and use them to gain access to corporate systems or individual applications.

Today, malware, phishing, ransomware attacks, and cybersecurity threats are becoming more complex, making it more critical for organizations to take tighter control over their security strategy.

6. Mobile Device Management

Mobile Device Management (MDM) is the remote administration of mobile devices on a single network. Mobile device management software is a precious solution for organizations with a distributed workforce of employees who aren’t always in the office simultaneously. Not only does it help establish more robust security protocols, but it can also help with compliance enforcement, employee monitoring, and simplifying and resolving IT issues.

BYOD makes MDM exceedingly tricky, especially since most employees understandably won’t want their devices monitored by their employer. As such, it’s harder for security experts to monitor endpoints and mitigate potential vulnerabilities.

7. Email Exposure

Managing several email accounts across personal devices can lead to mistakes. People accidentally send messages from or to the wrong accounts all the time. When those emails include privileged information, access permissions, or other vital data, they expose the organization to data leaks, exploitation, compliance violations, and other risks. 

When employees use their devices, they may not even realize they sent a risky email immediately, delaying the incident response time. Security programs can often intervene before a potentially damaging email leaves the company network through email monitoring.

8. Insecure Data Transfer with USB Devices

When you think of personal devices, your mind likely goes to laptops and smartphones. However, USB devices are ubiquitous personal devices that employees use to move data between devices or keep handy when working on a home device. Not all USB devices have the same security measures, and when individuals are bringing their own from home, it’s impossible to enforce strict security standards on these devices. 

As such, even if your security team identifies that data was moved to a personal USB device, there’s no way to know where that data was later transferred. That creates a loose end that could develop into a more severe security vulnerability.

9. Lack of Employee Training on Security Best Practices

Employee training is a crucial component of any corporate cybersecurity policy. Research has shown that employee mistakes cause 88% of data breaches. Employees are the front line of any security policy, and when you employ a BYOD system, it’s easy to overlook cybersecurity training. Not only that, but there’s no way to verify that employees are implementing the security training they receive. Training on security best practices is a logical step after providing employees with corporate devices.

10. Insufficient BYOD Policies

Of course, many BYOD organizations exist. It’s a more budget-friendly solution than providing all employees with devices. But if your organization opts for BYOD, it’s crucial to maintain strong policies and help employees maintain those policies.

Things like making employees implement multi-factor authentication on all third-party platforms, requiring them to update passwords and outdated software regularly, offering regular compliance training, and providing disclaimers and other legal language for email signatures to ensure that the organization is protected and employees remain compliant all go a long way towards a sufficient BYOD policy.

11. Mixing Personal and Business Use

The most common BYOD security risk is simply blending personal and business use. Of course, employees will use their personal devices for entertainment, banking, shopping, and myriad other reasons. Their devices house not only vital personal information but also vital information about the company, from their access credentials to corporate networks to confidential files containing trade secrets. 

They may store company credit card information on personal accounts or use the same passwords for business accounts as they do for personal ones. When you get comfortable using the same device for everything in your life — personal and professional — it becomes straightforward to let your guard down and risk your and the company’s safety in case of a security incident.

How to Prevent BYOD Security Risks

Many potential threats can arise from BYOD policies. However, many are preventable by leveraging some of the following solutions.

1. Use Endpoint Monitoring Software

Endpoint security solutions track all devices connected to your company’s secure business network. Not only can your security team monitor select user activity on all of these devices, but many solutions like Teramind—can also allow teams to control devices used remotely should a security incident occur.

Endpoint monitoring software lets you set intelligent alerts to inform your security team if anyone engages in risky activity, like accessing a file they shouldn’t have access to, sending an email attachment with sensitive company information to an unauthorized external address, or browsing on unsafe webpages. That way, you can proactively monitor endpoint activity without violating employee privacy or letting suspicious behavior slip unnoticed.

2. Implement an Insider Threat Program

Whether intentional or unintentional, insider threats are a significant threat to businesses. Most security incidents arise from authorized user behavior, not from external attackers. Implementing an insider threat program helps prevent potential security incidents from insider threats.

A comprehensive insider threat program leverages technology, employee training, and security policies to continuously monitor for threats, assess risks, and respond to potential insider threats before they can cause financial or reputational harm. Such a program should include a robust insider threat management solution like Teramind and a designated incident response team that is well-trained on security protocols for all potential threats.

3. Leverage Data Loss Prevention Tools

Data leaks and breaches are all too common today. One of the best ways to combat intentional or unintentional data exfiltration is to leverage Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools like those offered by Teramind.

Teramind’s DLP delivers comprehensive coverage of your organization’s confidential files, proactively monitoring when (and by whom) files are accessed, changed, or moved. When unauthorized access, sharing, or modifications occur, Teramind can automatically block access and stop data exfiltration until a security team can review.

teramind free trial

4. Setup User & Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)

Predictive security measures are required to stop threats before they happen. Tools like Teramind use AI-assisted User & Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) to learn work patterns and employee habits and flag suspicious activity or risky behavior in real-time. Security leaders who are aware of unusual activity can better assess security concerns and decide how and when to intervene against developing threats.

UEBA is a powerful tool for predicting potential threats before they occur, assessing remote access to files, employee activity outside of work hours, abnormal user behavior, and more potential threat indicators. Moreover, it’s also a valuable tool for organizations to understand employee productivity, identify top performers, and reduce data silos by facilitating legitimate access to company files where they can be leveraged without privacy concerns.

5. Define a BYOD Security Policy

Providing employees with work devices is the best way to prevent BYOD security risks. But that’s not a realistic solution for all organizations. In addition to leveraging security technology like Teramind, a strong BYOD security policy is crucial to preventing unnecessary risks arising from employees mixing personal and business devices.

Your BYOD security policy should require multi-factor authentication on all third-party apps that offer it, enforce frequent password updates, and include employee training on compliance and security best practices. Likewise, employees should be encouraged to report suspicious activity across communication channels. Providing a confidential, anonymous way to report such activity will make employees feel more comfortable and help create a more robust security posture in your organization.

FAQs

How is BYOD a security threat?

BYOD poses security threats as it allows for potential data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information, increasing the risk of malware infections on personal and business devices.

What is the main disadvantage of BYOD?

The main disadvantage of BYOD is the increased risk of data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information. This is due to the potential lack of security measures on personal devices and the mixing of personal and business data, creating vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.

What is the most common security risk of a mobile device?

The most common security risk for mobile devices is malware infections. Due to the prevalence of malicious apps and phishing attacks, mobile devices are vulnerable to malware that can compromise sensitive information and lead to unauthorized access. To mitigate this risk, users must have updated security measures and exercise caution while downloading apps or clicking on suspicious links.

What is BYOD in cybersecurity?

BYOD in cybersecurity refers to employees using their devices for work-related tasks, which introduces security risks. This can lead to potential data breaches, unauthorized access to sensitive information, and an increased risk of malware infections on personal and business devices. Implementing a firm BYOD security policy and leveraging security technology can help mitigate these risks.

What is the most common security risk?

The most common security risk is malware infections, which can compromise sensitive information and lead to unauthorized access. Mobile devices are particularly vulnerable to this risk, making it crucial for users to have updated security measures and exercise caution while downloading apps or clicking on suspicious links to mitigate the threat.

Conclusion

More than 80% of companies worldwide use a BYOD policy. Although more affordable and practical for most companies, BYOD policies carry more security concerns than company-provided devices. Mixing personal and business use on the same devices can lead to complacency and make it more difficult for security teams to monitor endpoint activity. 

Strong BYOD policies and technological solutions like Teramind to actively monitor endpoints, analyze user activity, and prevent data exfiltration and insider threats can help prevent BYOD security risks.

teramind free trial