The Threat Lurking in Bringing Your Own Device to Work With the versatility offered by mobile devices comes the risk of cyber theft. Here are five strategies for employers to reduce their exposure.

By Scott McLaren

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The "bring your own device" phenomenon is a growing trend among businesses in various industries. Allowing employees to use personal devices to perform work functions results in substantial benefits, as workers can access company information from anywhere they have an internet connection. This facilitates enhanced productivity and streamlined communication, as employees can speak with individuals in different time zones at mutually convenient times.

Yet security breaches cost U.S. organizations an estimated $25.8 billion annually, according to a recent Dell survey of global IT decision-makers. So clearly cyber theft is a significant threat to American businesses. The challenge for corporate leaders is to create a strategy that allows employees to accomplish more work while protecting sensitive information from data theft.

Related: Our Collective Mobile Security Blind Spot

Here are five ways that business leaders and employees can reduce security risks with this strategy:

1. Implement a mobile-device management plan. Mobile-device management plans give companies greater control over the range of technologies used by employees. This way workers can access company information in one secure location that is separate from their personal applications.

It also means that employees can use their phones for personal and business functions without compromising the security of corporate data. Meanwhile, companies can assure that workers' privacy is respected by keeping documents like personal text messages, photos and videos off-limits from IT workers.

2. Create and enforce strictly defined policies. Before companies set up a "bring your own device strategy," they should make the details of their mobile policies explicitly clear to employees. Decision-makers should stipulate the types of devices and apps that may be used and which groups of employees are allowed to use them.

Mobile policies should outline how a firm plans to use enterprise mobility capabilities to meet its long-term goals. Additionally, corporate leaders should educate workers on how to mitigate the risk of data leaking from their phones.

Related: Five Rules for 'Bring Your Own Device' Teams

3. Embrace cloud infrastructures. Cloud technology lets employees transfer information through a safe, organized platform. When companies set up cloud services, they do not have to overhaul their entire IT infrastructure. Instead, the cloud works in conjunction with existing IT systems, offering enhanced workflow and quicker deployment of controls.

4. Use mobile-application-management software. One of the most common ways for cybercriminals to gain access to company information involves installing malware on employee devices. Malware programs can be disguised as consumer apps available on third-party app stores, so it may be difficult for employees to recognize the harm in downloading such offerings.

Mobile-application-management software enables IT workers to control which applications can be installed on employees' devices. After IT teams install such programs on workers' smartphones, they can blacklist vulnerable apps from being installed.

5. Wipe information from former employees' phones. One of the most important security moves is erasing data from employee devices. When workers leave a firm, IT teams should remove any corporate information or apps from their phones. Also, company data should be wiped from devices that have been lost or stolen.

Data theft is not an uncommon. In addition to following best practices at their companies, employees can also protect their phones with data-protection programs.

Related: Dark 'Cloud' Forming: The Struggle to Balance Security and Employee Privacy

Wavy Line
Scott McLaren is the chief marketing officer of ProtectCell, based in Novi, Mich. His company offers insurance for cellphones and tablets, backing up users' mobile data and replacing the devices if they are lost or broken as well as locking down the devices to secure users's personal information.

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