BYOD enterprise security tools root staff

BYOD means PWND for staff

As BYOD takes off in the US and shows signs of growing in popularity in Australia, one executive from security firm Avast reckons the products vendors are pushing to the enterprise threaten to destroy staff privacy.

Jonathan Penn, director of strategy at security vendor Avast reckons BYOD — using your personal device as a work tool — spells big trouble for the employee.

“There is this need [for companies] to protect all this company data with employees’ personal devices and what I’ve found is that a lot of these security concerns aren’t that well-articulated or well-understood,” he told

Employees may be are driving force behind BYOD, which in the US occurs via a ‘stipend’ paid by the employer that allows the employee to select their own device. But the privacy cost of doing so is far too large, says Penn.

The former Forrester analyst reckons that businesses are so fearful of BYOD that they’re seeking security products that deliver “ultimate control”.

“Before, if you were on the VPN, I would see you, and if you were not then I wouldn’t.”

Today the story is different. The types of tools companies are looking for now place no boundaries between the home and work, he said.

The key powers enterprise want include: cataloguing every app staff install and have the capacity to remove them at will; remote wiping without prior notice; and the ability to monitor transfers of data between corporate tools like email and “personal apps” like Facebook.

“Because people don’t have a lot of specifics of where their concerns really lie with how consumers user their devices, [companies] are saying ‘I want absolute assurances about everything’.”

“Security isn’t about assurance, it’s about managing risk, and a lot of that is getting lost because it’s a tidal wave in what’s happening with consumer devices and corporations.”

Penn raised alarm on Avast’s blog after attending the recent RSA conference, where he noticed a trend for enterprise to want to over-reach their security programs, often without any goal in mind other than protecting company data.

“One product that was given prominent attention at the conference basically rooted your device to put a monitoring and management layer underneath the operating system,” he notes.

He told he was referring to a product “Bare Metal” from the company MokaFive, which sells a hypervisor designed to help companies secure Macs that are introduced to the corporate network, but which he suspects may void an Apple warranty.

The company is also planning a product for iPads, again to support the enterprise handle BYOD.

The problem though, according to Penn, is less in the availability of MokaFive-like products that offer control than companies haven’t thought through what additional controls they want or need over devices.

“The problem is that businesses want more security and control over your phone then they should have or even need: even more control than they have over the PCs they provide you.”

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