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Is your BYOD policy out-of-date?

Expert suggests updating BYOD policies every quarter to keep up with changing consumerization trends

By , Network World
May 14, 2012 06:09 AM ET

Network World - As consumerization continues to spread throughout the enterprise, IT decision makers must remain on their toes, tracking and anticipating end user behavior and deploying technology to protect against productivity losses and data breaches, one researcher says.

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Mike Geide, senior researcher at Zscaler ThreatlabZ, points to his firm's latest report on web transactions in the enterprise as a sign that fluctuating consumerization trends will force IT decision makers to evaluate their policies on a regular basis.

"In terms of engaging the CEO or COO of an organization, just say 'let's review our policies, find out what's working and maybe adjust it,'" Geide says. "On a quarterly basis, it's probably a good idea. Certainly twice a year makes sense, especially how fast things are evolving, but I think quarterly is probably a good recommendation for organizations."

A good example came this past March, when the NCAA men's college basketball tournament's online presence posed a threat to network bandwidth. A joint effort between Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA brought the NCAA March Madness Live online streaming service to Android devices for the first time, thus establishing a connection with the country's largest smartphone population. With the first three rounds of play largely scheduled during work hours on weekdays, sports fans across the country kept up with the action online, at the expense of company bandwidth.

Zscaler's research on the more than 200 billion web transactions in its cloud showed that sports-related traffic in the enterprise was 74% higher at the start of March Madness than it was around the time of the Super Bowl in February. Traffic to gambling sites also jumped to its highest point around the time the tournament tipped off.

A sampling of BYOD user policies

This trend is one that many in the enterprise had anticipated, as the research saw policies blocking streaming media in the workplace grow 0.38% in January to 0.46% in March. However, increasingly tech-savvy end users are forcing enterprise decision makers to be even more vigilant when crafting their policies, Geide says.

"Users do regularly try to bypass security policies and that's something that organizations need to be cognizant about," Geide says. "It's not only good to go ahead and set a policy for their organizations, but you have to enforce policy, and that means more than just a firewall. The technology that's behind the enforcement has to be aware of the ways around that users are going to attempt to bypass security controls."

The use of anonymous proxy servers to access unauthorized web content is not uncommon in the workplace, Geide says. If employees can find a way to access these websites, productivity takes a backseat to network security concerns, he adds.

"If you're allowed to goof off at work and maybe start visiting other sites, like pornographic sites, gambling sites, or shopping sites, you're also opening yourself up to potential security threats as well, because maybe those sites are more apt to be compromised and end up exposing security threats that way," Geide says.

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