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July 08, 2013

In BYOD World, 'Whom Do You Trust with Your Personal Data?' Study Says Not Employers

As the bring your own device (BYOD) era continues to evolve, much of the discomfort about its inevitable conquest of enterprises has focused around you and I wittingly and not bringing bad things into the organizations of those who employ us. This is certainly a cause for concern as the bad guys start to find ways to monetize their mischief. As the 1970 No. 1 pop hit song by The Osmonds says, “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch…”  

This is why so much momentum is now behind things like mobile device management (MDM), mobile applications management (MAM) and content management of remote sessions. IT is looking to avoid what I have called the incessant creep of “IT Anarchy.” But what about the flip side of this? When we bring our devices to work, how do we feel about IT being able to snoop on us? 

The answer according to a recent survey by Aruba Networks is that we don’t feel real good about IT.

Protecting personal data in a BYOD world is global challenge

The report, ‘Employees Tell the Truth About Your Company’s Data,’features a study of more than 3,000 employees around the world. It reveals that almost half of European (45 percent), 40 percent of Middle Eastern and 66 percent of American respondents fear the loss of personal data when they access their enterprise networks on their personal devices. 

It gets worse. A further 34 percent of Europeans, 35 percent of Middle Easterners and more than half of Americans (51 percent) claim that their IT department takes no steps to ensure the security of corporate files and applications on their personal devices. Aruba concludes that, “These concerns are leading many employees to keep their personal devices away from the IT department, which is jeopardizing company data. Around one in six European workers (15 percent) and Middle Eastern and American employees (17 percent) have not told their employers that they use a personal device for work.”

Still not convinced of how bad things might be? The study also found that that 13 percent in Europe, 26 percent in the Middle East and 11 percent in the U.S.would not report that their personal device had been compromised, even if it leaked company data. A further 40 percent of European workers, 41 percent of Middle Eastern workers and 36 percent of U.S. employees would not report leaked data immediately. 

Image via Shutterstock

IT needs to polish its trustworthiness

What the study found was IT has a significant credibility problem, particularly when it comes to the perception that we seem to be fearful that the exposure to IT of personal data would end badly for us.  

  • Twenty-five percent in Europe, 31 percent in the Middle East and 45 percent in the U.S. worry about IT department access to their personal data
  • Eighteen percent in Europe and 26 percent in the Middle East fear their IT department would interfere with their private data if they handed over their device.

When asked how they would feel if their personal data was accessed by their IT department, around half of all users across Europe and the Middle East described their reaction as “angry” and 41 percent in Europe, 47 percent in the Middle East and 46 percent in the U.S. would feel “violated” by this news.

Ben Gibson, chief marketing officer of Aruba Networks, said, “The research from both sides of the Atlantic shows that employees and IT departments are gambling with data security, but chance isn’t the only factor. In short, employees resent the power their employers now wield over their personal data, but are equally unconcerned about keeping company data safe.”

Gibson continued, “We are now well beyond the point of discussing bring your own device as something on the horizon. It is a reality across the world and businesses need to adopt solutions that give their employees greater privacy for their personal data as well as exert greater network controls to ensure that sensitive information is not leaked, without disrupting the user experience.”

What all of this points to is something that has been an issue since BYOD made its first appearance in enterprise not that long ago, i.e., there is a gulf between what employees want and expect in terms of having the convenience of BYOD and safeguards about the personal information on their devices and what IT perceives as the need to protect against real risks to the enterprise of even on bad apple due to the spoilage rate being almost instantaneous.

Finding a solution

Aruba and others believe that creating a viable separation between personal data and work data would go a long way to solving these problems. Such solutions have the ability to give both IT and users peace of mind.  

In fact, the recently released Aruba WorkSpace mobile application is such a solution. It provisions a separate, encrypted area on the devices for work applications and content. This gives IT full control over the corporate information in the encrypted space, but no visibility into personal areas of the device, thereby protecting employee privacy.

It should be noted that the study was the result of two separate surveys on BYOD habits.The first survey, carried out in March 2013 by independent research house Shape The Future, involved 3,014 people from select European nations (France, Germany, Spain and the U.K.) and two countries from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), which all used a personal smartphone for work purposes. The second survey was conducted by Kelton in February 2013, and asked 551 American business people about their own personal mobile devices and how they use them for work.

As noted in the past, trust is hard to earn, easily lost and very difficult to get back. Reality is that some combination of new technology such as the Aruba WorkSpace and efforts by device manufacturers themselves, to safely separate personal and work data, along with better education and the enforcement of new policies and rules is the path to reestablishing the trust so necessary for the benefits of the BYOD trend to be optimized by users without jeopardizing enterprise and personal security.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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