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BYOD - who's in control?

Tom Paye | July 9, 2013
Introducing and managing a solid security strategy will be challenge for companies embracing BYOD.

Here's a question — if I use my personal smartphone to access emails, calendars and corporate contacts (which I do), does my employer have anything to worry about? So far, it's been going well. My device is secured with a password and a mobile management suite that can delete data if it's lost. I'm even using my own laptop to type up this article, instead of a company-issued one..""

Certainly, I've embraced the BYOD trend with gusto. But is this a safe way to go about things? Am I inadvertently putting my company's data at risk? And if I am, what can be done to remedy the situation?

"The challenge that the Middle East and Africa will face with BYOD is introducing, and managing, a solid security strategy," says Osama Al-Zoubi, Senior Systems Engineering Manager, Cisco Saudi Arabia. "As more and more employees are using devices for both personal and business activities, the issues with potential loss of confidential company data increases as IT departments are less in control."

His comments reflect what is becoming a burning issue among regional IT departments — as more employees demand to use their personal devices for work, IT managers are struggling to both accommodate them and safeguard confidential company data.

There's no denying that BYOD is beginning to take off around the region. Indeed, according to Leif-Olof Wallin, Research Vice President, Gartner, you'd be hard-pressed to find any company in the Middle East that isn't struggling with BYOD in some form or another.

"An organisation that claims they don't have BYOD usually needs to look harder for it," he says. "Generally, you might find executives taking notes on personal iPads in sensitive meetings, or other employees taking a photo with a smartphone to document the sensitive content of a whiteboard. Resisting BYOD will become increasingly difficult, as it often comes from the top as a mandate."

Maan Al Shakrachi, Networking Solutions Sales Leader, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Avaya, adds that the uptake of BYOD is steadily increasing in the Middle East. "The Middle East has always been keen to adopt all sorts of new technologies and BYOD trends are no different as it can be clearly seen in many public and private entities across all industry verticals. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has just recently announced moving from the e-government towards the mobile government model, where people will have the capability of accessing all sorts of government applications and information they need using their own devices anytime, anywhere, to accomplish their tasks. This reflects the importance of BYOD in this region, and the innovation that our leaders are building on it," he says.

But while the trend is somewhat unavoidable — not least because it can save organisations huge amounts of money — this doesn't mean that business leaders are wrong to be concerned about their data. Shakrachi explains the problem.


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