Understanding BYOD Policy

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Does your organization have a BYOD policy? If so, you probably have a good understanding of the Security+ testable concepts related to bring your own device (BYOD) policies. That’s good because you’ll find that the Security+ exam tests your understanding of mobile security concepts and technologies, including BYOD policies.

Can you answer this sample question?

Q. Management within your company is considering allowing users to connect to the corporate network with their personally owned devices. Which of the following represents a security concern with this policy?

A. Inability to ensure devices are up to date with current system patches

B. Difficulty in locating lost devices

C. Cost of the devices

D. Devices might not be compatible with applications within the network

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

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BYOD Policy Concerns

Many organizations are adopting bring your own device (BYOD) policies. These policies allow users to connect their own smartphones and tablets to the organization’s network. Data security is a primary concern when allowing employee-owned devices onto a network, so different rules and guidelines are implemented to protect data. Additionally, there are several concerns that complicate these policies.

As an example, imagine that Homer has a tablet that he uses for email, Internet research, and various other personal uses. If his company allows him to connect this tablet to the corporate network, it will make it easier for Homer to access company email and other company resources needed for his job. However, is Homer’s tablet protected from threats? Does it have antivirus malware installed? Does Homer keep it up to date with current patches? Who owns the data on the tablet? Who provides support if he has problems connecting to the network? Most of these issues would be addressed in an acceptable use policy, or in some cases a separate BYOD policy.

The following topics summarize the BYOD concerns:

  • Acceptable use policy. Aacceptable use policy (AUP) describes user responsibilities when using an organization’s IT resources. Employees are required to periodically read and acknowledge the contents of the policy. When used with a BYOD policy, the AUP will define the responsibilities of employees if they choose to connect their personal devices to the organization’s network.
  • Adherence to corporate policies. If users are unwilling to adhere to the corporate policies, they are not allowed to connect their devices to the network.
  • Privacy. Users have a right to privacy, but not all activities are private. For example, it isn’t appropriate for users to connect to the network for Internet access and then spend their time gambling. AUPs often include a privacy statement informing users what activities they can consider private.

Understanding BYOD Policy

  • User acceptance. These policies can potentially cause problems with some users. The attitude is that the device is their own, so the organization doesn’t have any business managing it. However, when users understand the risks associated with unmanaged devices, they are often more willing to accept the policies. If users are unwilling to accept the policies, the organization simply blocks them from connecting their device to the company network.
  • Data ownership. Typically, the policy will specify that all data owned by the organization remains the organization’s data. This normally includes email sent through the organization’s network.
  • Support ownership. Support can be tricky. From a user’s perspective, it’s only one device. However, from the IT department’s perspective, it is a multitude of smartphones and tablets. If the IT department must support them all, it can create a monumental workload. Because of this, many organizations limit the types of devices supported in a BYOD policy.

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  • Architecture/infrastructure considerations. Instead of allowing users to have full connectivity with an organization’s network, it is possible to segment these devices to a restricted access network. For example, many users want access to the Internet for email and web browsing, but don’t necessarily need to connect to servers within the network. Organizations can set up VLANs that segment these users. The VLANs can have a path to the Internet with appropriate security, but block access to the primary network.
  • Forensics. Forensic analysts have tools to analyze mobile devices just as they have tools to analyze traditional computers. For example, they can identify deleted files. However, a company security specialist doesn’t necessarily have permission to perform a forensic analysis on an employee-owned device.
  • Legal concerns. If an organization doesn’t take the time to define BYOD, AUP, and privacy policies, it can result in legal issues. For example, if a user has been copying sensitive data onto an employee-owned device, the organization might face a lawsuit if it attempts to confiscate the device to remove the data. It isn’t possible to avoid all legal issues with policies, but they go a long way to ensure people understand their responsibilities, and help avoid most legal issues.

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  • On-boarding/off-boarding. On-boarding refers to the procedures to allow users to connect their devices to the network, and off-boarding refers to the procedures that remove the devices from the network. The most important consideration is simply to have established procedures. For example, having employees read and acknowledge the BYOD policy might be all that is required for on-boarding. When employees leave the organization, administrators remove all access to the network, including access with their mobile devices.
  • On-board camera/video. Mobile devices have excellent cameras that can take both still pictures and videos. These are useful and valuable. However, it also allows personnel to secretly take pictures and videos. They might take pictures of other employees, screen images, or confidential data. Organizations that support BYOD policies need to consider if they want to restrict the use of the camera, or merely define restrictions in an AUP.

Remember this

Data security is a significant concern related to BYOD policies. You can use VLANs to isolate mobile devices from the primary network, while still granting them access to the Internet.


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Q. Management within your company is considering allowing users to connect to the corporate network with their personally owned devices. Which of the following represents a security concern with this policy?

A. Inability to ensure devices are up to date with current system patches

B. Difficulty in locating lost devices

C. Cost of the devices

D. Devices might not be compatible with applications within the network

Answer is A. A core security concern with bring your own device (BYOD) policies is ensuring that they are up to date with current patches and have up-to-date antivirus signature files.

Tools are available to locate lost devices even if they are employee-owned.

The cost of the devices is not a security concern and not a concern to the company because employees pay for their own devices.

Although ensuring that the devices are compatible with network applications is a concern, it only affects availability of the application for a single user.

See Chapter 5 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information securing mobile devices.

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