Security managers split on BYOD, skeptical of Android devices

CSOs, CISOs and other security managers are not embracing the bring-your-own-device movement set into motion by demanding employees, but they aren't refusing to allow user-owned smartphones and tablets into the work place either.

Results of a polled conducted by Wisegate, a private, invitation-only community of senior information technology professionals, found their members are divided on what strategies to employ when it comes to securing user-owned technology, and even whether or not to allow the devices at all.


The question posed to Wisegate members was "What is your position on securing mobile/handheld/tablet devices which your workforce uses (especially 'bring your own device')?"

Among respondents, 27 percent said they continue to only allow fully managed and secured devices to utilize corporate services. However, 24 percent said enabling their workforce to work in whatever way is effective to them is acceptable -- meaning they will allow outside technology to be used by employees. Another 24 percent noted their organization is moving from what was termed a 'device-centric' strategy to a 'user-centric' strategy and didn't think that devices could be fully secured.

Other responses included:

We utilize a hybrid approach with more secured devices getting more access and less secured/managed getting less access: 20 percent

This issue just gives me a headache, and I'd really like it to go away: 6 percent

Other: 6 percent

Wisegate officials note that results add up to more than 100 percent because respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer.

The poll also asked members what employee owned devices are allowed for accessing corporate email.

Responses were:

None -- strictly prohibited: 18 percent

iPhone/iPad: 78 percent

Blackberry: 78 percent

Android: 46 percent

Windows Phone 7: 18 percent

Windows Mobile: 15 percent

Symbian: 6 percent

Other: 6 percent

Products that use the iOS and Android operating systems were the most commonly used among workers in member's organizations. However, Wisegate members are quite skeptical of the Android platform and some would prefer not to bring it into their network environment, according to a summary of results.

"In a recent Wisegate facilitated member discussion on the topic of BYOD policies, the 17 senior IT participants were asked if they allow Android devices on their network -- 29 percent said "yes," while 71 percent said "no."

Among the risk factors they cite for wanting to avoid Android devices are:

Viruses-- Wisegate members perceive a problem with viruses on the Android platform. One member says that anti-virus software is essential, and he lobbied his company not to allow Android-based devices on his network at this time until more research and risk mitigation planning can be done.

"If youre going to support Android devices and support putting data on the Android devices, then you're going to want to look at adjunct security software for sure, anti-virus software, and you're going to want to look at data segmentation and risk levels specific to your organization," said one member.

A "chaotic" application marketplace -- Device owners download "apps" onto their smart phones from an application marketplace that is largely uncontrolled and a potential source of malware.

"The application marketplace is a big sticking point for Android," another member noted. "I don't pretend to be a complete expert on how the Android platform or marketplaces work, but the consensus amongst my team was basically that it's too chaotic, too out of control, and there were too many instances of uncontrolled malware on that platform, and it got worse as time went on. Gartner produced a report that pretty much said Android is nowhere near prime time for the enterprise, and they highly recommended against it at this point. That article, in combination with all the news we were hearing about security issues in the Android Marketplace, sealed the deal on delaying Android support."

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