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IT learns to COPE with mobile devices

Tom Kaneshige | Nov. 19, 2013
More than 60 percent of employees say it is OK to transfer work documents to personal devices or online file-sharing apps. Given that statistic, it's no surprise that companies want to rein in BYOD. However, there may be alternative: A move to company-owned-personally-enabled devices promises to give employers greater control of mobile devices without trampling on privacy.

Let's face it, you're a thief.

At some point in your life, you swiped something from a previous employer — business contacts, source code, staplers — and used it for personal gain, perhaps as a sacrificial, competitive offering to your next employer or to help kick-start your own business. Fact remains, the stuff wasn't yours.

But it's so simple, you say, especially in these early days of BYOD. It's easier than ever to whip out your smartphone and record a strategic meeting, take a screen shot of a document or photo of a whiteboard, copy and paste company information contained in an email to a personal cloud storage service, shoot off untraceable text messages, and other violations of the eighth of The 10 Commandments.

With BYOD, you don't even have to employ multiple devices or stealthily use a thumb drive like the techies in the geek cult classic "Office Space," or stupidly create an electronic paper trail by forwarding corporate email to a personal email account. Rather, you can do all your pillaging from the safety and comfort of your cubicle with little chance of getting caught.

COPE Offers IT and Workers Middle Ground
Companies, though, are smartening up. While they know they can't stop the powerful current of consumer gadgets flooding the enterprise, they can slow down BYOD. They're regaining control with an emerging computing model and big-time contender to BYOD called company-owned-personally-enabled devices, or COPE. It's a hybrid that sits between free-for-all BYOD and traditional company-owned computers that forbade personal use and held zero expectations of privacy for employees.

"We have seen several large companies moving to the company-owned-personally-enabled-model primarily to give the employer greater access to mobile devices without creating privacy snafus," says Larry Ponemon, founder of research firm Ponemon Institute. "This approach appears to be acceptable to data protection authorities and other privacy regulators, including those in high-risk countries such as Germany, France and other EU nations."

BYOD's meteoric rise is starting to slow down because of security concerns, thus opening the doors to COPE. Ponemon Institute surveyed 895 IT and security specialists and found that 60 percent are unsatisfied with current BYOD solutions, mostly due to cost and inadequate security.

Workers and Employers Both Wary of BYOD
A Workshare survey found that the number of employees adopting BYOD decreased from 80 percent to 62 percent, largely due to the increase in IT security and in the awareness of the dangers of BYOD.

Protecting intellectual property in the age of BYOD has become paramount for companies big and small, in every industry. Consider this startling statistic from a Symantec survey earlier this year: Half of employees who left or lost their jobs in the last 12 months kept confidential corporate data, and 40 percent plan to use it in their new jobs.


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