While the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon has entered the mainstream with 70 per cent of smartphone-owning professionals using their personal devices to access corporate data, almost 80 per cent today's BYOD activity remains inadequately managed by IT departments, according to analyst and research firm, Ovum.
Ovum said that this means businesses are left not only at risk of data loss, but are unable to claim they took reasonable preventative measures.
In its BYOD Survey (September 2012), which surveyed over 4000 full-time employees to assess BYOD behaviour and attitudes, the firm found "a concerning level of ignorance by IT professionals about the BYOD trend."
The study indicated that nearly half of the respondents' employers' IT departments either did not know of BYOD or were ignoring its existence through a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. A further 8.1 per cent discouraged it.
Levels of ignorance by IT were higher in mature economies with more rigid working practices, such as those of Continental Europe, compared to high-growth economies like Brazil, India, and South Africa.
"BYOD multiples the number of networks, applications, and end-points through which data is accessed," Ovum senior analyst, Richard Absalom, said. "These are the three main points at which data is vulnerable; so, if left unmanaged, BYOD creates a huge data security risk."
Ovum poses the question of whether the effect will be neutralised as enterprises update their corporate device fleets to the popular consumer devices that employees actually want and are purchasing.
Although, Ovum's research shows that 50 per cent of employees say privacy concerns would stop them accessing their own personal apps on a corporate provisioned smartphone (or tablet) as it not a perfect substitute for a personally owned device. Ovum said that this will continue to give momentum to the BYOD trend.
"The way people work will have a profound effect on how BYOD is rolled out and managed within an organisation," Absalom added. "As such, it's imperative that IT departments act quickly to develop and implement clear policies governing BYOD."
"BYOD can provide an added advantage in terms of productivity and efficiency but to do this it will be important to get the right blend of process, policy, people, and technology management."
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