October 11, 2012, 10:54 AM — Allowing employees to bring their own devices to work is causing new challenges, including what happens when a device needs to be wiped or employees want to sell their smartphone or tablet.
Mobile security and BYOD (bring your own device) are main themes at the European edition of RSA's security conference, which takes place this week in London.
Letting employees use their own smartphones or tablets for work represents a loss of control for IT departments. Also, if personal data isn't handled correctly, the company may end up being sued, said Cesare Garlati, vice president of mobile security at Trend Micro and the moderator of a conference session called "The Dark Side of BYOD."
"If companies don't protect themselves through policies they are really exposed," said Garlati.
For example, using Microsoft's ActiveSync technology to remotely wipe a device becomes more complicated because when data is deleted from the device everything is removed, including the user's personal photos, videos, songs and so on, according to Garlati.
"The question is who is responsible for that," said Garlati.
So, initiating a remote wipe when a user has entered the wrong password too many times, when an employee has been let go, or simply by mistake could have serious repercussions.
There are both technical and legal ways for an organization to address this.
More advanced mobile device management products allow enterprises to create containers that separate personal and enterprise information and can delete just the latter, according to Garlati.
However, for that to work, information has to be tagged correctly or stored in the right place and some enterprises feel they can't trust that is the case, according to Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner.
"For example, on an iPad there is a good chance that the employee has stored notes from a sensitive meeting outside the container. So to be on the safe side, they wipe the whole device," said Wallin in a separate interview.
The solution is to put in place an acceptable-use policy that clearly states employees can connect to the enterprise network, but if something goes wrong, the IT department can initiate a remote wipe that also deletes personal information, according to Garlati. The rules of the policy then have to be reiterated on a regular basis, he said.
Part of that is also telling users to back up personal data if they don't want to lose it, Wallin said.
People and their devices can also be affected if their employer gets involved in litigation.
"The other party can go to the judge and say that to preserve and discover evidence, I require all the devices involved in the litigation to be seized and sent to a forensics expert for analysis," said Garlati.