BYOD wave sparks big security concerns

The BYOD bandwagon keeps rolling and along with it the growing concerns of IT professionals about supporting employee-owned devices in the workplace. Protecting corporate data is at the top of their list of worries.

It is clear that most companies — large and small — face the bring-your-own-device dilemma whether they want to or not. Employees use the tools they like  at work.  If they use Dropbox or another cloud-based storage system with their iPhone for personal stuff, chances are they will use it at work, especially if the company’s shared storage solution is hard to use or nonexistent. The problem then becomes how to integrate those tools —  predominantly iPhones(s aapl) and iPads from what I can tell, but other smartphones and tablets as well — into their IT infrastructure in a way that protects corporate assets.

New Gartner research drawing on a survey of 938 businesses worldwide with 500 or more employees showed that BYOD is a primary concern among respondents, 90 percent of whom have deployed smartphones. And 86 percent said they plan to deploy media tablets later this year.

The wording in the Gartner statement is not clear on what percentage of  respondents actually have a BYOD policy in place, but it did say that “many” respondents provide support for personal devices. In fact, personal devices constituted 32 percent of smartphones, 37 percent of tablets and 44 percent of laptops supported overall. Companies in developing nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are more likely to support these personal devices. Nearly half (44 percent) of BRIC respondents said they support personal devices, compared to 28 percent of respondents in developed nations.

According to a statement by Gartner research director Chai-Gi Lee:

Mature countries consider BYOD programs as bringing with them both legal and technical issues, whereas emerging countries only see technical issues. For instance, mature regions are more concerned with security and data privacy regulations for immature MDM than emerging regions. In BRIC countries, employee turnover can be high in some sectors, leading to more theft of devices and data. BYOD and virtualization can reduce those enterprise losses.

What to do about BYOD

It’s a knotty problem, as any IT pro will attest. Gartner said that to allay security concerns, companies should focus on mobile data protection (MDP), network access control (NAC) and mobile device management (MDM) tools to support their BYOD and new enterprise mobile platform efforts. And it  recommends that all shops set up a mobility strategy team within IT to handle data management and control.

I think most IT shops would agree that’s a good plan but would also say the chances of it coming fruition in many companies is nill. IT pros who have commented on past GigaOM stories on this topic blasted company management for expecting support of myriad devices while cutting IT budget and staff.