technology gold rush

The Wild West of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Tasha D. Dyson Compliance, Computer Forensics, Mobile Forensics


technology gold rush

The Wild West

When you think about the Wild West, what do you see?

Do you picture unspoiled scenery, picturesque cattle drives, spacious farms, gold miners, unfettered individual freedom, rugged individualism, and no federal income taxes? This is definitely a “romantic” picture.

Remember the darker side. Don’t forget about the lawless gangs of robbers, disputes settled by gunfights, and clashes between settlers and indigenous people. Smallpox, anthrax, polio, rabies, measles, and tetanus were uncontrolled. Life expectancy was only 37 years.

Life in the Wild West was a high risk existence filled with eternal optimism despite the overwhelming odds. Only the strong and the lucky survived.

In 2018, personal devices in the workplace create a similar situation. There is a lot of risk, minimal control, and extreme optimism.

So how did we get to this point?

The Technology Rush

Westward expansion really picked up steam after gold was discovered in California. Suddenly, the American Dream could be achieved quicker and more easily. Opportunities could be found at the bottom of every stream with just a sluicing pan.

Some of us may remember a time when cell phones first replaced beepers. Younger readers can remember when smart phones became more common than “old” cell phones. Laptops are currently purchased more than desktops, and tablets keep gaining in popularity.

The proliferation of technology is our Gold Rush, and we are the new Forty-Niners.

The Corporate Wild West

At some point in our “Technology Rush” the first person brought their smart phone to their employer’s office. They asked if the company would set up their phone so they could send and receive company emails from their device as well as from their office-based, company-owned computer.

Based on the number of mobile devices sold, virtually everyone who needed (or thought they needed) a smart phone had one as of 2017. Opportunities to work differently can now be found in everyone’s back pocket. With smart phones, tablets, and laptops, today’s employees are no longer tied to their desks.

How did this rapid and massive connectivity create a Wild West situation?

The Gold Rush attracted hundreds of thousands of fortune seekers from all over the world virtually overnight. The “Technology Rush” has led to hundreds of thousands of employee-owned devices connected to private company networks. In both cases, the ease of participation has moved more rapidly than processes to control or monitor the situation.

The big difference between the two events is the damage that can be caused by a single individual. California, the West, and even America were irrevocably changed by the massive influx of outsiders. However, one Forty-Niner alone impacted mostly just himself and those close to him, for better or for worse.

With BYOD, a single individual has the capacity to affect himself, those close to him, the company, and potentially millions of other people. One unsecured device can harm millions of individuals and organizations who may become unsuspecting and unwilling participants. These “collateral damage” participants often have no say in how these risks are managed.

Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of BYOD here.
Can BYOD Be Rescued from the Wild West?

In 1848, when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, California was a lawless place. Just two short years later, it was the newest US state. It could still be a lawless place, but processes to help protect assets and make everyone thrive had been put into place. In the Technology Rush, it’s up to us as individuals and company leaders to start instituting some of those processes.

It’s a matter of plan, protect, and prosper.

  • Plan
    • Does your company allow BYOD?
    • If so, do the perceived cost savings and perceived flexibility support your organization from a morale, efficiency, and profitability perspective?
    • If so, does your company have a comprehensive, legally defensible BYOD policy?
    • If so, is there enough gold to make you “Go West, young man?”
  • Protect
    • Policies and procedures are an important security tool to support expected behaviors and discourage inappropriate activity. They are the foundation of a BYOD program.
    • The foundation of a successful BYOD program are policies and procedures. These form an important shield that protects and supports the actions management requires while discouraging inappropriate activity.
    • If your organization does not allow the use of personal devices at work, “No Device” policies are a critical component of your security program. In a world where personal smart devices are the norm, an organization that limits or forbids the use of devices on company or client properties must work harder to provide appropriate guidance.
    • Is BYOD a high-value claim to be staked or a low-value claim to be abandoned? What are the rules for staking a claim?
  • Prosper
    • Smart devices create vulnerabilities. Companies are just beginning to understand these vulnerabilities and to develop appropriate responses.
    • BYOD puts business assets at risk and is a security vulnerability that is often overlooked until it is too late.
    • Leaders need to understand how BYOD is impacting their organization.
    • Policies and procedures put in place the appropriate guidance and controls to support the protection of assets and discourage inappropriate activity.
    • Effective integrated security programs will match the people, processes (including policies and procedures), and technology with the culture of your company.
    • What’s the best way for you to get the most gold with the least amount of risk?

Protus3 can help you. We’ve been partnering with companies like yours to develop appropriate security controls for more than 30 years. If you have assets, you have a security problem. Your prosperity depends on how you protect the assets that are critical to your organization.

Contact us for additional information.