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BYOD Devices in the Office and the Document Security Implications

As it stands, most companies allow their employees to come to work with their own devices, such as mobile phones, flash disks, and memory cards. In fact, they do not have much of a choice in the matter. Some organizations have tried to prevent the use of BYOD in the workplace, but these efforts have all come to naught. Also, most executives agree that mobile devices are convenient and sometimes necessary to get work done and so they should not be excluded.

At first, it might seem harmless for employees to have such freedoms, but that is not entirely true. Mobile devices add a new layer of vulnerabilities to sensitive documents that third parties and employees can easily take advantage of.

For example, a third party could steal an executive’s phone to get access to company documents. Also, employees may be willing to make copies of documents on their mobile phones to sell them to the highest bidder. In fact, Edward Snowden showed the world that security is not guaranteed and if Snowden could walk out of a highly secure facility with copies of internal documents, then what are your employees able to do? Remember, you do not employ the same security protocols as the US government and, as such, it may be much easier for your employees to leave with your documents without being noticed.

Such documents do not even have to be directly copied to a device. With the use of cloud technologies, one can now sync all your devices. So, just by you having access to a document on a single device, the content is backed up on your other devices which means that you can have copies of the document simultaneously on your phone, computer, tablet, and other devices. This means that when users leave work at the end of the workday, they may just be leaving with most of the documents they have been working on.


Tried, Tested and Failed Remedies to the Problem

There have been several attempts to prevent documents from leaving an organization’s premises. These include the following:

  • Preventing or forbidding the use of flash disks – This is a good idea, since whenever a new flash disk is attached to a work computer, it might constitute a copy being made.
  • Scanning outbound emails – Since emails constitute the main way in which information moves from inside a company to the outside world, scanning them for information is also a good idea. If any information which is deemed unfit for public viewing is found in someone’s emails, that email address can be blocked until the user removes it.

The above two attempts might be useful to some degree, but people can always find ways around them. And, as long as it is possible for people outside the organization to view your documents, they will always attempt to do so.

So, we propose ensuring outsiders are unable to view documents they should not have access to. In essence, even if they were to have a copy of the document, it would be useless to them if they could not open it.


A Solution for the BYOD Menace

Stopping people from bringing mobile devices to the office has never been about being restrictive, but rather about preventing employees from leaking sensitive documents intentionally or unintentionally. And so if you could do this without needing to restrict the use of BYOD, you would be better off. This is where enterprise DRM systems could provide a solution.

With an enterprise document DRM system like Locklizard, you could lock a document to a specific location and authorize use only with a particular set of devices. If you limit the devices to only Windows or MAC devices, it will automatically exclude most mobile devices and so employees will still be able to bring their mobile device into the office building, while being unable to view document copies on their mobile phones. They could even have copies of documents on their devices, but will be unable to open them which would be as though they did not have them in the first place. Of course, these days, there are Windows mobile devices and so there is that to consider.

If you define the location as your company’s premises, you add a little more freedom to the equation. However, the result will stay the same. No one can leave the premises with the document and still be able to open them outside. Instead, they can leave with them, but they just cannot use them outside the company’s premises. In that way, the integrity of each document will be maintained.

Add a few extra controls, such as the ability to revoke access for an individual at any time, to prevent document copying mechanisms, and even to log document use, and you have a foolproof way of ensuring document security in the face of BYOD. This takes care of the BYOD problem once and for all.



Your documents should be safer simply by incorporating enterprise document DRM systems and the peace of mind you will get could be priceless. Try and make the right choice early enough and the next Snowden will probably not be someone in your organization.


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