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6/3/2016
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Rob Greer
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BYOD Security: How To Shift Device Control & Grant Users More Choice

Gartner's 'managed diversity' model offers an ITIL-compliant information security solution to the problem of Shadow IT.

Information Technology departments too often have rigid policies circumvented by end users seeking convenience. At the same time, many employees have flexible work environments and more choice for how and where they work. This dichotomy leads to unchecked behaviors where users can bypass traditional security measures by using unsanctioned or unapproved applications, accessing insecure Wi-Fi networks, or choosing to store important data and files on their personal devices. It’s a growing security problem, seemingly, without a foreseeable resolution.

Or is there?

Information security teams looking for a way to resolve the problem of so-called “Shadow IT” should consider implementing Gartner’s Managed Diversity Model for BYOD and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD). Gartner’s model improves the relationship between IT and end users. The model has given businesses a new way to organize end users, specify device options and create a solid set of best practices—while still granting choice. By following its framework, IT and security pros can better respond to end-user preferences and re-address how security is deployed within their organizations. 

Finding the Right Balance

The key for a happy balance between employees’ wants and IT security management is two-way communication that addresses each party’s concerns. Instead of keeping rigid control from the top down, under Gartner’s model, IT can, and should, shift some decisions to end-users in a semi-managed device environment. There are still structured options, but with a broader scope: employees have more choice—with the caveat that users will be more responsible if they choose their own preference. This Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) compliant model presents three service choices to users, ranging from the traditional ‘IT controls and manages everything’ device to the ‘user free-for-all’ device.

While it may seem like this model can generate security risk, if applied correctly, offering more user choice need not come at the expense of security.

The fully managed device is the typical model most corporations employ, where IT and security decide what devices are used while also taking full responsibility for it, from purchase to everyday use. It allows organizations to implement any control(s) they deem fit for keeping the device, and the sensitive data it holds, safe, without interruption from the end user. Devices that usually fall under this category are those essential to an employee’s workflow, such as computers or mobile devices required for daily tasks. IT will usually select devices for which they know they can manage security and support, allowing them to control the entire device and deploy robust security measures at all levels.

In this model, security may seem straightforward on the surface—with management solutions like Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM), companies can keep an eye on their devices and curb any risk incurred by the end user. The downside to this model is the lack of choice and the likely response by end users to circumvent security to use devices and services they prefer.

Splitting the Security Responsibility

Gartner defines semi-managed devices as those for which information security and end users split the responsibility. This model has gained in popularity, as employees have increasingly demanded more choice. They have no qualms spending their own money to use their favored devices, often bypassing IT and security measures to do so. It’s the driving force behind organizations’ move toward the BYOD and CYOD norms generally adopted today.

Although providing a semi-managed device environment provides personal flexibility to end users, that same flexibility raises security issues. Enterprise IT leaders are forced to rethink their approaches, especially when it comes to safeguarding network and endpoints—in large part because the end user is 100 percent responsible for the device and its personally installed applications, while IT is only in control of enterprise content (e.g. corporate data, files, important login information and financial records).

Mitigation of potential security issues in this model must start with IT security teams working directly with human resources, legal and finance departments to ensure compliance is always met. Options should be limited to a set of devices IT knows are more secure and compatible with existent access control, management and security tools. More importantly, security management tools should be launched at the content and application level, not the device level. The ability to have safeguards at a granular level is paramount in a corporate environment where a personal application can be compromised and then negatively impact the larger device ecosystem, including critical content.

This level of security is even more important in the case of non-managed devices that interact with a corporate network. Clear delineation of responsibility along with education is important when end users are involved.

Ultimately, straying away from the traditional, fully managed device environment is inevitable. The result is a corporate ecosystem that makes it difficult to maintain secure systems and compliance. But with the right approach, training and tools, IT and security can better enable and satisfy the “choice-first” employee while still maintaining a secure network.

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With more than 25 years of industry experience, Rob leads the global marketing and product management teams. Prior to joining ForeScout, he was vice president and general manager of network security products at HP Software. Before HP, Rob served in numerous leadership roles ... View Full Bio
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