DSD manifesto clarifies “significant risks” and strategies for secure BYOD

Strategies for securely implementing bring your own device (BYOD) policies have been formalised in an extensive document recently published by the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) that outlines business cases, regulatory obligations and legislation relevant to securely implanting BYOD.

The document, entitled Risk Management of Enterprise Mobility including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), aims to help readers understand and mitigate the “significant risks associated with using devices for work-related purposes that have the potential to expose sensitive data”, according to its authors.

DSD has long held primacy in information-security matters, offering technical certification of products for use in secure environments and offering IT-security guidance for government and non-government bodies through publications such as its Information Security Manual (ISM).

That DSD has seen fit to explicitly address BYOD is a recognition of the strategy’s growing frequency within government and non-government organisations – and an acknowledgment that mobile devices represent a significant new wrinkle in the IT-security story.

Managing their impact requires corporate attention from a number of angles. An explicit policy outlining permitted use of devices, expected employee behaviour, and technical risk management controls can keep risks “partially mitigated”, the report suggests, while business cases involving access to non-sensitive data may make use of personally owned devices much easier.

In cases where sensitive data is to be accessed, the policy points out the potential benefit of maintaining a corporate shortlist of devices, which can be managed to enforce technical controls such as preventing the use of unapproved applications; ensuring devices are regularly patched; and banning jailbroken or rooted devices.

In other cases, organisations may want to consider providing devices to employees but allowing “a reasonable degree of personal use” while retaining enough control to ensure that those devices may be monitored, remotely wiped, and accessed in security checks and legal investigations.

Ultimately, the report recommends, organisations must evaluate the selection of risk management controls to device whether they represent an acceptable overall risk level.

In an attempt to help guide corporate decision making, the DSD report include a broad range of mobility scenarios and weighs them against their relative risks. It also includes extensive checklists for areas such as identifying regulatory obligations and legislation, developing an enterprise mobility policy, or allocating budget and personnel resources.

Yet even before organisations get caught up in the minutiae of executing a BYOD policy, the report recommends significant effort be expended in outlining the organisation’s overall mobility strategy – for example, by starting with a pilot trial in an area that is “low risk, high value and has clear measures of success.”

“Subsequently reviewing the success of the trial… enables the organisation to make an informed decision as to whether to increase their use of enterprise mobility,” the report advises. “In the absence of a strategy, the organisation’s mobility might be driven by employees, without clear measures of success and without adequate consideration of risks.”

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