What is BYOD security?

BYOD security is the set of tools used to reduce risks from bring your own device (BYOD)—the practice of using a personal device, instead of a company-issued one, for work purposes. Any desktop or mobile device, from a laptop to a smartphone, can be used for BYOD. These BYOD endpoints may connect to company networks, hardware, and software—and cause significant security risks.

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What are the essentials of BYOD security?

BYOD security is two things:

  1. The protection of company resources (networks, corporate data, applications, etc.) from any cybersecurity risk originating from a BYOD device used by employees.
  2. The security posture of BYOD endpoints themselves against malware infections, phishing campaigns, and other security threats that could compromise sensitive data and spread laterally.

Effective BYOD security requires security personnel, processes and tools to work together to consistently secure devices, protect sensitive information, and prevent data breaches. It should also be a form of adaptive security, with changes in access levels that correspond to changes in device security postures. These key elements should be crystallized into a BYOD policy that defines:

  • The specific devices and operating systems (OS), including OS versions, that a company supports for work-related use
  • The major applications and websites included on the company’s block lists and allow lists
  • How cloud, SaaS, web and on-prem apps are to be securely accessed via BYOD hardware
  • How BYOD endpoints will be enrolled, configured, and supported by IT
  • Ownership and stewardship of device data—for instance, if a device is lost, will its data get wiped, and if so, how?
  • Minimum password strength requirements, as well as mechanisms and intervals for password resets.
  • Any other security measure, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) implementations, that BYOD users will be subject to
  • How and when access levels will change in response to device security postures

How are BYOD security policies enforced?

In terms of how security teams and IT departments enforce BYOD policies, many cybersecurity options are available. Common options include:

  • Policy-driven digital workspaces for controlling application access and security
  • Secure access service edge (SASE) technologies, like secure web gateways, that work in conjunction with a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN)
  • Unified endpoint management to control enrolled BYOD hardware by isolating personal data and simplifying BYOD administration in a single place
  • Zero trust network access (ZTNA) that trusts no BYOD user or connection by default, for a more adaptive cybersecurity approach than possible through a traditional VPN

Why is BYOD security important?

BYOD security is important because BYOD itself is a widespread practice, especially in the context of increasingly popular remote and hybrid working environments. Each personal employee device connecting to a corporate application or WAN is a potential liability if not properly secured.

Securing access to critical applications is a central requirement—and a major challenge—in BYOD security. Employees need to use a range of cloud, SaaS, web, virtual and other applications during the course of their work, often on mobile devices. Moreover, they must do so from a variety of locations—not just within an office, but from their homes and on the go, too.

Access must be secure and granted based on contextual information, for instance, as part of a ZTNA approach. At the same time, employee productivity needs to be preserved. That means that any set of BYOD security controls has to be streamlined as well as airtight.

What are the pros and cons of BYOD?

Overall, proper BYOD security is integral to ensuring that BYOD pros outweigh its obvious cons. BYOD has inherent risks (cons) due to the fact that employees own the hardware in question and have more discretion over how it’s used. But the right BYOD security solutions can make each BYOD personal device safe enough for corporate use, while also providing extra convenience and comfort for employees (pros).

Benefits of BYOD include:

  • Easier remote work enablement: IT doesn’t have to ship devices to employees and can instead simply secure the devices they already have
  • Happier employees: Employees may be more satisfied with being able to use a mobile device of their choice, not an IT-issued one
  • Cutting-edge technology: Because people refresh their own phones and tablets frequently, BYOD hardware is likely to be up-to-date

Cons of BYOD include:

  • Security vulnerabilities: Data leakage and malware infection are always front-and-center security concerns with BYOD, especially for devices that don't have anti-virus software installed
  • Complexity for IT: Monitoring, updating, and supporting different BYOD hardware, plus enforcing a BYOD security policy, can be challenging for IT without the right tools
  • Mixed business and personal use: On a BYOD personal device, an end user may visit websites and applications that pose risks to corporate data.

What are the main security issues with BYOD?

BYOD makes network security more complex in specific ways. Some of the most notable cybersecurity concerns that a BYOD policy and related enforcement must address include:

Malware infections

Malware can infect BYOD hardware when employees do not keep their software up to date or regularly use risky applications. This malware can in turn steal sensitive company data or, in the case of ransomware, encrypt critical information and make the OS on a personal device virtually unusable unless the attackers get paid.

Lost and stolen devices

A personal computer or mobile device being used for BYOD can easily be lost or stolen. In this case, the sensitive corporate data on it may be at risk of compromise. Most lost devices are never recovered, either. A BYOD policy must make provisions for such scenarios, by encrypting information at rest when applicable and creating mechanisms for remote wiping of data.

Unsecured network access

When out of the office, employees will still need to access applications of all types from a mobile device or other personal hardware. Unfortunately, they might choose to do so over an unsecured network like public Wi-Fi, or one with a weak password. Even a VPN might not provide complete protection since it isn’t contextual and offers unfettered access that could precipitate a breach.

4 essential steps for more secure BYOD

A BYOD security strategy needs to combine a clear, comprehensive BYOD policy with a specific security solution for controlling how BYOD users access corporate applications and data. There are four key components necessary for securing BYOD devices.

  1. Creating a BYOD policy and conducting training
    As mentioned earlier, a BYOD policy should provide a detailed overview of permitted desktop and mobile device types, allowed and blocked applications, and applicable security controls and data management practices. End users should also be trained on best practices related to BYOD usage, including risky habits to avoid and how to secure important accounts.
  2. Implementing contextual policy-based security
    Contextual security controls are essential in a world of BYOD and remote working environments. Access to applications like SaaS must be both reliable and secure, which is only possible by holistically analyzing criteria such as each BYOD user’s geographic location, personal device type and behavior. Security policies can require examination of these data points and others. Such a zero trust approach evaluates those factors before permitting application access, offering a safer approach than possible with traditional VPNs.
  3. Setting up scalable, cloud-delivered application access protection
    A SASE architecture delivers the performance and security necessary for acceptable use of BYOD devices. Solutions such as secure web gateways, next-generation firewalls, and cloud access security brokers work in tandem to identify and block threats across a company’s SD-WAN. Their underlying threat intelligence engines draw upon multiple feeds to protect application access on any device and in any location.
  4. Requiring MFA, SSO, and other cybersecurity measures
    MFA is critical in preventing automated attacks that break into accounts via brute-force guessing of passwords. Through MFA, application access can be more tightly controlled without creating undue roadblocks for legitimate users. SSO provides similar benefits by enabling a single set of credentials to be used across multiple apps, reducing the risk of password fatigue and unsafe credential management.


How the approach to cybersecurity and zero trust network access has evolved

See how ZTNA has become mainstream to meet the needs of a hybrid organization.

Citrix BYOD security solutions

Citrix Secure Private Access and Secure Internet Access enable organizations to take all of the four key steps above en route to superior BYOD security.

  • Citrix Secure Private Access offers end-to-end contextual security for web, SaaS, and virtual apps, as part of a zero trust approach to BYOD security. This solution allows IT to understand the state of the end user devices, without having to enroll them in a mobile device management (MDM) solution.
  • Citrix Analytics for Security helps prevent data loss from insider threats by proactively analyzing user behavior.