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Why BYOD needs to be on every CFO’s agenda

Julian Swan, director, compliance marketing EMEA, BSA/The Software Alliance | Jan. 21, 2014
The Software Alliance explains why BYOD can be a legal nightmare for businesses

Bring your own device - more commonly known by its acronym BYOD - is a growing trend. From the C-suite to front-line staff, employees at all levels could benefit from policies that allow them to use their personal devices for work purposes.

First and foremost, BYOD is an IT issue, but it's becoming increasingly common to see it on the agenda of the chief financial officer. Analysis from Cisco shows that BYOD can actually reduce the overall cost of running a business. It also shows that employees who use their own devices for work gain an average of 37 minutes of productive time per week.

Given these benefits, it's perhaps not a surprise therefore that Gartner predicts that by 2017 half of employers will require their staff to supply their own device for work purposes.

However, bringing your own mobile device to work is still a relatively recent phenomenon with a number of unknowns, many of which the CFO should be aware of. Speculation as to the security risks of BYOD are well documented but scant attention has been placed on the legal ramifications associated with unlicensed software use - a possible by-product of BYOD.

In part, this is because BYOD naturally defers an element of trust to the employee. It's a significant enough undertaking for the IT department to keep track of how employees are using devices provided by work - even more so when they are using their personal devices for work purposes. Consider how CFOs can end up grappling with this same challenge from a financial perspective. It is their responsibility to ensure that their company's BYOD policy is not only cost-effective, but also not in breach of copyright laws that can potentially result in a fine.

With limited visibility, such as when people use their personal devices for work purposes, there will always be a question mark over whether staff are using unlicensed or counterfeit software. In so doing, they could be exposing the company's network to viruses and malicious attacks. Security hazards aside, a company (not the individual user) is infringing copyright law and answerable to the rights holders - in this case the software industry.

Redress commonly comes in the form of an investigation by BSA, a hefty financial settlement, and the requirement to purchase licences to legalise any unlicensed software. For instance, safety specialist First Choice Facilities Ltd paid almost £100,000 after being found using unlicensed software.

Companies often come unstuck when there is uncertainty over accountability. Clear lines of responsibility are crucial in all areas of business - including software licensing. Which is why BYOD comes laden with risks: unless ambiguities are addressed from the outset.


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