Businesses and employees put #BYOD on trial: who will come out on top?

written by bethburgee on May 16, 2013 in Industry Trends and Under The Radar with no comments
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This is a Guest Post by Suresh Balasubramanian, CEO, Armor5 Inc.

courtTom Kaneshige’s recent article in CIO Magazine, BYOD Lawsuits Loom as Work Gets Personal discusses the legal implications of deploying Mobile Device Management (MDM) software to employees’ personal devices. Tom writes that, “like most tragic love stories, the Bring Your Own Device affair has come to an abrupt end; a bitter breakup looms, and lawyers are circling”—he explains that employees are beginning to question the intrusion of corporate eyes on their personal devices.

Mistrust and suspicion have killed many a love story. A more important issue for many mobile workers is fear of the “dreaded remote wipe”, as CIO calls it. Some employees refuse to participate in BYOD programs because of remote wipe fears. Others would “wait days or weeks before reporting a lost or stolen device so that IT wouldn’t wipe it”.

Oh dear, can this marriage be saved?

In the UK a Kaspersky study found that “more than three quarters (77 percent) of UK employees would omit from telling their IT department about the theft or loss of a company owned device within an hour of its loss. These results show that if a corporate notebook, tablet or smartphone gets stolen, thieves may have several hours to access the data on it before the IT department is able to take preventative measures.”

Just tell that to this poor CEO who was a victim of his own mobile security policy when his smartphone was wiped by mistake. Some IT organizations strike a compromise with employees, implementing partial wipes on personal devices. These can delete sensitive corporate email and documents but leave things such as photos on the device. However, even photos could present a risk – who hasn’t captured potentially sensitive whiteboard photos after a strategy meeting?

CIO Magazine concludes that with MDM solutions there is a looming liability cloud. Companies who have bet on these first generation solutions will need to add protections against employee lawsuits, such as turning off remote wipe.

It may be time to call Divorce Court.

So if we’re falling out of love with MDM, what’s an alternative? Let’s look at Virtual Desktop Interface, or VDI. Virtualization has been around since the 1990s for remote access and most users are familiar with it. But it turns out that accessing what’s on your company network or work computer from a mobile device is a new challenge for VDI. To implement it with adequate enterprise security requires a hardware appliance plus device agents. Even then it may only see the intranet, or may not access all content, or access applications but with limited functionality. What’s more, traditional VDI requires a “fat pipe” to deliver the performance and productivity that the mobile workforce expects.

The next stage of virtualization is an emerging technology called Mobile Virtualization. Let’s call it “smart VDI”, as it attempts to patch some of these concerns as part of the next generation of BYOD. Efforts are being made, for example, to partition personal and corporate data and applications separately on a device (which is possible with hardware OS today) to eliminate MDM’s remote wipe problem. Other Mobile Virtualization solutions virtualize everything in the cloud for direct browser access, leaving zero footprint on the user’s device.

The answer to finding love again just might be “zero touch BYOD”.


Suresh Profile PicSuresh will be presenting at Under the Radar this month. As GM of anti-piracy efforts at Adobe, he built a global organization spanning 15 countries from the ground up to $150M in revenue in five years. He has also held executive positions with Everdream (acquired by Dell), Macrovision, Silicon Graphics, Advanced Micro Devices and Digital Equipment Corp. Suresh has served on the board of the Software & Information Industry Association and the Business Software Alliance.