Over the past few years, IT teams across nearly every industry have undergone a significant shift. The consumerization of technology is a trend that has deeply impacted how companies deal with their employees’ devices, as well as how they govern these endpoints and their sensitive data. IT consumerization has created several challenges that enterprises must deal with head-on in order to make the most of advanced systems while also ensuring the protection of company-owned information.
What is IT consumerization?
According to a CA Technologies whitepaper, IT consumerization came as the result of several different factors, including the significant uptick in the use of consumer devices for company use. BYOD programs have taken the corporate world by storm, as a rising number of employees bring their personal smartphones, tablets and laptops to work for enterprise purposes.
“[U]sers are now demanding access to corporate information and applications on the devices that they use heavily in their personal life,” the whitepaper stated. “Many IT organizations initially resisted, but soon realized that the trend was inexorable, so they learned to adapt their IT processes to accommodate these new devices.”
Furthermore, the considerable growth of cloud services and social media sites have also impacted businesses. CA Technologies noted that the rise of platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have made it possible for users to share information and better communicate, improving the connection between businesses and their customers.
Benefits of IT consumerization
Leveraging this type of approach comes with its share of benefits, including increased flexibility and productivity among staff members. BYOD initiatives enable workers to utilize devices that they have become familiar with in their personal lives for corporate pursuits as well. Due to this boosted mobility, employees can remain connected with their colleagues and with the information and resources they need to do their jobs from any location - even those outside of the office. In this way, workers have the freedom and flexibility to access mission-critical content from their preferred endpoints, and their company benefits from the resulting rise in production and collaboration. In fact, a recent Forrester study found that 12 percent of organizations saw a rise in productivity levels after deploying a BYOD initiative, Trend Micro reported.
IT consumerization challenges
However, in order to best leverage the IT consumerization trend, there are several challenges that companies must prepare for. TechTarget contributor Lisa Phifer noted that one of the main issues here is that oftentimes the consumer-level devices being utilized by staffers do not include the staunch security requirements needed in a business setting. This can create issues when it comes to current IT policies in place within an organization, as these endpoints may not align with these processes. However, Phifer pointed out that administrators can put extra security measures in place to better protect these devices, or block access to certain resources.
“IT can establish acceptance criteria and embrace personal devices that meet requirements for business use,” Phifer wrote. “Not comfortable with devices running Android 4.1 or older? Block network, system and data access for those devices. Or, better yet, establish a policy that gives higher-risk devices limited access, such as virtualized interaction with corporate email.”
Another challenge to tackle is that of data loss, which can occur when employees’ smartphones or tablets are lost or stolen. A McAfee survey recently found that lost or stolen devices are one of the top concerns business leaders have about IT consumerization, with 58 percent noting worries connected with this issue, according to InfoSecurity.
If a device is misplaced or taken by a malicious individual, it puts company-owned intellectual property at risk. Phifer pointed out, however, that through encryption of sensitive materials and the use of tools like remote device wiping, administrators can effectively mitigate this threat.
Trend Micro also noted that hackers have caught on to the IT consumerization trend, and are leveraging several techniques to steal corporate data through employee devices. One such approach is through phishing emails, which entice users into opening malware-laced messages that can steal information. Furthermore, when staff members use certain consumer websites, it can also put their device at risk of being compromised. Educating employees on these issues can help prevent these threats.
Know what to protect
Overall, companies can be ready for IT consumerization if they plan effectively. Administrators should have a full understanding of the sensitive data their employees store and access on their BYOD-supported devices so that they know what needs to be protected. For example, Trend Micro noted that the additional operating systems on these endpoints, as well as data sharing over applications and cloud systems must be safeguarded.
“Ultimately, you will need to device how much control you need for your particular environment,” Trend Micro stated. “Regardless of the approach that you take, you can achieve complete end-user protection by gaining visibility across user activities and device usage.”