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Wells Fargo says no to personal smartphones and tablets, period

Employee-owned mobile devices pose security risk, Wells Fargo says

By , Network World
March 07, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Network World - Wells Fargo's IT group has a simple answer for employees who want to hook personal devices up to corporate systems: No.

"They can't connect them to our networks," says Wayne Mekjian, executive vice president and CIO of information services at Wells Fargo. "We won't let them in."

The "just say no" policy applies to Apple iPads, Android tablets and smartphones owned by employees. The company also has strict policies regarding use of Twitter and Facebook, making the sites off-limits to many. Wells Fargo does, however, supply employees with corporate-approved smartphones, and a limited deployment of iPads that can connect to e-mail and other corporate systems.

CHALLENGE: The complicated new face of personal computing

"I carry two phones. One for personal, and one for work," says Martin Davis, executive vice president and head of Wells Fargo's technology integration office. "I've got two iPads in my briefcase, for personal and work. We keep it separate."

The consumerization of IT has led many large enterprises to reconsider restrictive policies on employee-owned devices. Intel, the chipmaker, allows nearly 10,000 personal devices to connect to its network, primarily for e-mail, contacts and calendaring. Ford Motor Co. has a program to support employee use of iPhones and other consumer devices. Moreover, VMware and other virtualization vendors are building a wall between personal and corporate data and applications on smartphones, making it more secure to use a single device for both work and play.

But financial services companies, generally, may believe that the special security risks posed to the banking and insurance industries demand a higher level of separation between work and personal systems. Wells Fargo, for instance, also blocks employee access to some social networking sites when they are in the office or connected through a VPN. Twitter and Facebook are among the blocked sites.

"We have a number of sites where you get a black message, covering your screen, and it says 'access denied,'" Davis says.

Wells Fargo, which is undergoing a huge technology integration project spurred by the purchase of Wachovia, has had to reconcile competing policies on use of devices and social networking sites.

Davis, a veteran of Wachovia, said Wachovia before the merger allowed employees to connect personal devices to corporate systems, as long as they signed a waiver allowing the company to wipe the device in case it is lost. One reason Wachovia allowed employees to buy their own devices was because they "were managing their price points better. When we had major plans for the enterprise, we ended up paying too much for minutes," Davis said.

But the Wells Fargo side believed that policy wasn't secure enough.

"It still is a huge deal with Wachovia and Wells Fargo merging, because at Wachovia it was OK to have personal devices attached," Mekjian said. "Now we're going back to all those guys and saying, 'You've got to take them off.'"

For smartphones issued by the corporation, employees can choose among iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys. Wells Fargo has also issued 200 iPads to employees and connected them to Microsoft Exchange, in a pilot program. All the data on those devices can be erased when they connect to the network.

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