The Danger of the Bring-Your-Own-Device-to-Work Trend

When employees use their personal tablets or phones at work, it brings an increased risk of exposing the office to malware.

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By Robert Siciliano

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

More and more workers are bringing their personal devices -- laptops, phones, tablets -- to work. But with this trend comes an increased risk of exposing the office to malware.

All those devices that employees bring to the job can get lost, stolen or hacked -- and that's a huge problem if the employees have been using those devices to carry out their workplace tasks. This can cost a company millions of dollars if those stolen or lost devices end up in crooked hands.

Related: 8 Simple Ways to Minimize Online Risk

Suppose your company is stellar at landing high-paying clients. Your competition wants to know your secret. So they hire a company that specializes in hacking: Hackman & Son. Will Hackman does some Web surfing and finds the e-mail address of one of your employees and sends him a message.

The employee opens the message on his laptop, the device he brings to work. Will Hackman made the e-mail look like it was from someone relevant to the employee, and that's why the worker opened it. But once it was opened, it invaded his device with a virus. The virus now allows Hackman to track the employee's keystrokes and view other details.

Hackman's in.

He has access to the employee's e-mail. He can now pose as that employee and lure other workers in your company to communicate with him -- and he can infect their computers as well. He'll have your business's trade secrets in no time.

Related: Encryption on iPhones, Facebook Apparently 'Petrified' the NSA

So many business owners and managers don't appreciate just how dastardly the bring-your-own-device trend is. How can you protect your company?

  • Train your employees. Most aren't malicious, but a little ignorance can go a long way. Don't allow your employees to be clueless.
  • Training, of course, begins with coming up with a very thorough program of preventing cyber crime and resolving data breaches should they occur. What security measures does the company's systems rely upon? This same vigilance should be applied to the worker's device.
  • Get a policy going. Come up with guidelines -- and distribute them -- for how your business's data and e-mail are used on employee devices. The goal is to encourage workers to exercise caution. Plus, an employee isn't likely to claim he had no idea about risks after reading the guidelines.
  • Mobile Device Management software (MDM) is an application that allows a smartphone, laptop and tablet to be under surveillance. For example, if a smartphone gets lost, the MDM application can find it and lock it so no one gains entry. It also remotely wipes all the data in it if desired. MDM can also foster encryption, firewalls and antivirus software. Because MDM involves monitoring of the device, the device's owner would have to authorize it. A company can opt to fire a person or refuse to hire that person if they refuse to agree to MDM surveillance.

Related: IBM Uncovers New, Sophisticated Cyber Scam Targeting Businesses

Robert Siciliano

Personal Security, Privacy and Identity Theft Expert

Robert Siciliano, CEO of, is committed to informing, educating and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds.

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