Bring Your Own Device to Work

The line between work and home gets blurrier all the time. Many workers telecommute, turning the den or local Starbucks into a remote office. Others use their company-issued laptops for personal activities like shopping and travel planning. But the big trend these days is taking your own laptop, smartphone, and/or tablet to the office. And that raises a host of security concerns — not just for your employer, but for you as well.

On the surface, bringing your own device to work seems like a win-win scenario. You get to use the hardware and operating system you’re comfortable with (say, an iPhone or Android phone instead of a company-mandated BlackBerry, or a shiny new ultrabook instead of a clunky, outdated laptop), and the company gets a break from having to buy your gear.

Just be prepared to follow a few rules. Many organizations worry about confidential or mission-critical business data housed on unsecured gadgets, which tend to be much easier targets for hackers than company-issued hardware.

Furthermore, because people often use their phones, tablets, and laptops to access social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which cyber criminals increasingly attack, many managers and CIOs aren’t wild about the idea of letting their employees use personal devices in the workplace.

Consequently, don’t be surprised if your boss insists that you add controls to your personal devices. For example, the IT department might install software that can remotely wipe the data — both business and personal — if the device gets lost or stolen.

Likewise, you may be required to run company-sanctioned security software to protect against spam, malware, and unsecured networks. Some companies even require tracking software that can monitor devices’ whereabouts — something to keep in mind if you plan to sneak out to opening day at the ballpark on your “lunch hour.”

If these measures sound extreme, consider that any personal device mixed a corporate IT environment may end up carrying sensitive data: contacts, documents, product photos, and the like. That makes it all the more important that your device stay safe.

With that in mind, consider the flipside. Your phone, laptop, and tablet store plenty of personal data as well: contacts, documents, vacation photos, and more. Think about the consequences if one of your devices does get lost or stolen, and the IT department has no choice but to remotely wipe the hard drive.

Thus, just as your company may have rules about bringing your devices to work, you should impose a few rules of your own:

1. Make regular backups (of your personal data)

Laptops, tablets, and smartphones get stolen every day. This causes not only headaches, but also heartache — especially if you lose family photos, personal finance data, that novel you were working on, and so on. The easy fix: Use an automated cloud-based backup service to archive just your personal data. (Let your company handle backing up its own stuff.)

2. Use a strong password

A device that’s not password-protected is like an open book. You can easily safeguard personal and proprietary data alike by enabling your lock screen, and making it impossible to bypass without your password.

That password should go beyond the typical four-digit PIN, instead combing letters, numbers, and perhaps even symbols. For example: pa55w0rd! (though nothing quite as obvious).

3. Install a good antivirus program

If your company doesn’t insist on antimalware measures, it’s up to you to find proven, reliable software — not just for your laptop, but also for your smartphone and tablet. Hackers are increasingly targeting these mobile devices, but robust protection is readily available. Use it.

4. Use your Web browser’s privacy mode

You don’t want the IT department snooping on your browsing activities, do you? That’s the risk you run when you use a personal laptop or tablet at work. Fortunately, most browsers offer a privacy mode that eliminates all information about which sites and pages you’ve visited. It doesn’t make you invisible to the Internet, but it does remove your footprints from it.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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