Years ago, the only way to ensure your employees could perform work functions that require a mobile device was to supply those devices directly to them. Consequently, that made it easier to keep those devices safe. But, as smartphone technology grows increasingly complex, prices are skyrocketing too.
Luckily, most of your employees already have a capable device—per Pew research, over 75% of Americans own a smartphone. Hence, the need for “Bring Your Own Device,” or BYOD device management keeps the company safe.
Best BYOD Device Management Software
The mobile devices your personnel and clients use daily can harbor some of the biggest and most insidious threats to your company’s cybersecurity. However, if appropriately protected, they can also be a real pillar of your cyberdefense. To make that happen, you need to draft an effective Mobile Device Management (MDM) plan and execute it flawlessly.
One of the most common and effective approaches to MDM is a concerted “Bring Your Own Device” policy, which allows for great flexibility as clients use their personal devices. In the sections below, we’ll break down everything you need to know to practice it safely including:
- The top 5 BYOD device management software solutions
- How an all-in-one, comprehensive platform can help
But first, let’s define what BYOD management is and what to expect from any solution.
What is BYOD Device Management?
Before the advent of BYOD device management, employees were still bringing their personal devices to work. And in many cases, they were using these devices for work. However, without a unified way to monitor and control these personal devices, they became a dangerous “shadow IT” problem for companies. Thus, BYOD MDM is a necessary response to an inevitable trend.
All MDM, BYOD or not, is a programmatic and systematic approach to cybersecurity across the wide range of mobile devices that come into contact with a company’s systems and assets.
Defining characteristics of BYOD MDM in particular include:
- Employees use their personal devices, not owned or operated by the company
- Personal devices are authorized to access company resources and strictly controlled
- Separate networks and strict access criteria to avoid cross-pollination of personal threats
- Fewer software and hardware restrictions apply since devices are employees’ property
Other approaches to MDM might involve a focus on premise-based security, such that mobile devices enter into a secured “perimeter.” A cloud-based approach might involve principles of “Zero Trust,” requiring the same scrutiny for access irrespective of location, user, device, etc.
Top 5 BYOD Management Software Solutions
Without BYOD MDM, employees’ personal devices would pose innumerable threats to a company. But with a plan in place, these same devices can be a bastion of security and cost-efficiency. By ensuring that employees’ personal devices will not pose safety risks, employers can rely on them as crucial tools for personnel that they do not need to supply.
However, ensuring safety across these devices is a vector of expense. Namely, companies need to invest in one or more BYOD MDM mechanisms, such as software, to keep all the personal devices adequately safe. Five of the best such solutions are:
- A logical partition or separation
- Means for tracking location
- Strict authentication measures
- Robust tracking capabilities
- App-based security support
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
#1: Partitioning / Containerization
One of the simplest and best ways to approach BYOD MDM is a baseline modification to the way personnel access company resources through their personal devices. Software is available that can create a “partition,” or logical container, to utterly separate business use from personal use. Doing so insulates professional use from risks on the individual “side.”
This process of “containerization” can take many forms, but the most basic create separate profiles on the device. Much like a computer, the user will select a profile and enter credentials to begin using the device, whether personally or professionally.
On the company side, a user logged in to the professional profile on his or her device functions no differently than a user logged in to a device owned and operated by the company:
- Downloads and use of apps are monitored and restricted
- Functionality is limited to only uses appropriate for business
- Employees should only use the business profile during work hours
Other methods include creating special “containers” for storing sensitive company data, which works well in conjunction with other software, and capabilities, like access control (see below). But the best way to achieve containerization is through separate profiles.
Thus, the professional profile is strictly controlled by the company, but the personal profile remains untouched. In this way, company and personal use seldom, if ever, come into contact.
#2: Location Tracking Services
Another essential functionality for MDM, especially BYOD MDM, is location tracking. One of the biggest cybersecurity threats to an organization is the accidental loss, or purposeful theft, of physical company assets used to access digital systems and resources.
Most mobile devices have built-in GPS capability, along with first-party applications (like “find my” on iOS devices) used to track down a device if it’s lost, stolen, or misplaced.
However, these default capabilities and software are often not robust enough for a company’s MDM policy. In addition to simple location services, BYOD MDM software may include a “lost mode” functionality that enables the company to:
- Remotely lock the device and change access credentials
- Remotely wipe all sensitive data and connections from the device
- Remotely control the display, presenting a number to call if the phone is found
If the device is not partitioned (see above), these functionalities may be seen as an infringement on employees’ personal use of or agency over the device. However, to the extent that they can improve the chances of a device being found or returned promptly, they may present personal benefits to the user. There are few more costly and inconvenient occurrences than losing a smartphone, given how central they are to our personal and professional lives.
#3: Access Control Management
One of the most fundamental areas of cybersecurity concerns controlling who has access to your company’s data, as well as how that access is determined. A key pillar of every security framework is access control, sometimes referred to as authentication or user account management. It includes all controls used to standardized login credentials.
Thus, another approach to BYOD MDM is software that facilitates robust access control.
In particular, one of the most effective ways to control access is through the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA), which requires more than just a username and password for authentication. It calls for more than two factors, including but not limited to:
- What the user knows – A personal identification number (PIN), password, or passphrase, ideally long, complex, and changed at regular intervals.
- What the user has – Some object possessed by the user, other than the device or account being logged into: often a secondary device, account, USB stick, etc.
- Where the user is – A location-based authentication factor, such as a GPS location, IP address, or other indicators of user access.
- Who the user is – A physical characteristic or biometric value unique to the user, accessible through scans of the user’s voice, fingerprint, iris, etc.
In some cases, MFA and broader access control are simply built-in facets of other software. But it can also be software unto itself, with a dedicated app used for credentials— a means of verifying that the user has or knows something aside from a password through a separate, in-app login.
#4: Use and Behavior Monitoring
Another key software capability of BYOD MDM is monitoring employees’ use of personal devices in ways that pertain to professional accounts and assets. If a partition exists and users must log in to the business account to use the professional “side” of the phone, monitoring is likely a key, built-in component of containerization.
But if users’ business use of their personal devices is not strictly partitioned or otherwise logically separated for personal use, it’s still important—arguably more important—to monitor usage. Enter, specific applications and software created just for this purpose.
One way to achieve such monitoring is through app-based reporting. Apps used for work purposes can closely monitor use therein, instantly reporting to one or more IT systems that catalog and analyze user data. Thus, threats can be identified and addressed in real-time.
Another approach to this type of monitoring is through wifi connectivity. You can configure apps and software required for work functions to be accessible only if they’re on approved wifi networks or channels (typically controlled by the company). In which case, the company monitors any device connected to these channels.
#5: Application Support and Control
Finally, the last type of software solutions your institution might consider for effective BYOD MDM implementation occurs at the granular level of individual apps. Suppose other, broader controls are not available or not easily applicable. In that case, you might consider merely restricting, monitoring, and otherwise controlling users’ access to company property through the apps they use to access it.
For example, you might locate company systems on a handful of proprietary apps developed by the company for company use only:
- Company-specific email clients and messaging platforms
- Customized web browsers, databases, and information systems
- All-in-one company apps, including the above functions (and more)
The company would restrict the download and installation of these apps to authorized devices, and the use thereof would be strictly controlled, monitored, and analyzed remotely. Furthermore, your software solution should include regular and mandatory updates to the apps.
If using applications not developed by the company, an organization can still configure settings to requisite security standards. Afterward, you have to limit the accessibility of these assets when going through apps. You don’t want people to gain access through their own phones or browsers.
Across all of these software solutions, your best bet may be combining one or more, like with the app-based analysis of user behavior. Location services can be used to begin or end the user’s access sessions in the partitioned “side” of a user device, depending on location.
The best possible solution may come from an even more efficient, all-in-one platform.
Comprehensive Managed Security Services
The software solutions named above are often available as one-off programs or applications. In other cases, they are bundled together in comprehensive MDM packages or included in broader IT suites. Grouping together multiple services in one, these comprehensive managed security programs can encompass all these BYOD MDM software solutions and more.
For example, RSI Security’s robust managed IT and security services include all the BYOD MDM software and capabilities mentioned above, as well as:
- Firewalls and proactive web filtering
- Continuous patch management services
- Penetration testing and root cause analysis
- Robust managed detection and response
By integrating multiple services into one holistic package, the number and impact of moving parts are minimized. This compounding effect makes not only MDM but every other safeguard and control more powerful. The more interconnected your defenses are, the stronger they are.
Thus, a comprehensive approach can offer the most and best protections, often at a fraction of the cost. With optimal efficiency, managed security can make BYOD MDM as easy as possible.
Professional BYOD Management and Cybersecurity
Here at RSI Security, we’re happy to help with all elements of your company’s cyberdefense. Our talented team of experts has been providing cybersecurity solutions to companies of all sizes, and in all industries, for over a decade. We know what it takes to keep all of your company safe, from the devices your employees use, up through the cloud and beyond.
No matter what stage you’re at, we can help. Whether you’re starting and building up a cybersecurity architecture, meeting all applicable compliance criteria, or implementing a wide-ranging threat and vulnerability management program, we’re your first and best option.
For many companies, that all starts with a robust BYOD device management policy, coupled with perfect execution. Contact RSI Security today to see how easy it can be for your company.