The “bring your own device” phenomenon is a growing trend among businesses in various industries. Allowing employees to use their personal devices to perform work functions enables substantial benefits, as workers can access company information from anywhere they have a connection to the Internet. This facilitates enhanced productivity and streamlined communication, as employees can speak with individuals in different time zones at mutually convenient times.

According to a recent Dell study that surveyed global IT decision-makers, security breaches cost U.S. organizations an estimated annual loss of $25.8 billion, so it is clear that cybertheft is a prominent threat to American businesses. The challenge for corporate leaders is to create a BYOD strategy that allows employees to accomplish more work while protecting sensitive information from data theft.

Here are five ways that business leaders and employees can reduce BYOD security risks:

1. Implement a mobile device management plan

Mobile device management (MDM) plans allow companies to have greater control over the range of technologies being used by employees. With MDM, workers can access company information in one secure location that is separate from their personal applications. This means that employees can use their phones for personal and business functions without compromising the security of corporate data. Meanwhile, companies can assure that workers’ privacy is respected by keeping documents like text messages, photos and videos off-limits from IT workers.

2. Create and enforce strictly defined policies

Before companies enable BYOD, they must make the details of their mobile policies explicitly clear to employees. Decision-makers should stipulate the types of devices and apps that may be used and which groups of employees are allowed to use them. Mobile policies must outline how a firm plans to use enterprise mobility capabilities to meet its long-term goals. Additionally, corporate leaders should educate workers on how to mitigate the risk of data leaking from their phones.

3. Embrace cloud infrastructures

Cloud technology allows employees to transfer information through a safe, organized platform. When companies implement cloud services, they do not have to overhaul their entire IT infrastructure. Instead, the cloud works in conjunction with existing IT systems, offering enhanced workflow and quicker deployment of controls.

4. Use mobile application management software

One of the most common ways for cybercriminals to gain access to company information involves installing malware on employee devices. Malware programs can be disguised as consumer apps available on third-party app stores, so it may be difficult for employees to recognize the harm in downloading such offerings. Fortunately, mobile application management software enables IT workers to control which applications can be installed on employees’ devices. After IT teams install MAM programs on workers’ smartphones, they can blacklist vulnerable apps from being installed.

5. Wipe information from former employees’ phones

One of the most important BYOD security features is the option to erase data from employee devices. When workers leave a firm, it is essential for IT teams to erase any corporate information or apps from their phones. Also, company data must be wiped from devices that have been lost or stolen.

Unfortunately, data theft is not an uncommon event, and as evidenced by the Dell report, it has been financially devastating for U.S. organizations. In addition to following best practices for BYOD, employees can protect their phones with data protection program offerings like those from ProtectCELL. ProtectCELL’s plan provides security beyond mobile phone insurance so that smartphone owners can ensure they are keeping both personal and corporate data safe. Company leaders will be pleased to know that ProtectCELL programs offer the ability to locate and lock lost devices and erase sensitive information, making these plans a strong addition to any firm’s BYOD strategy.

By Scott McLaren, CMO of ProtectCELL

At ProtectCELL, we live to defend you against the hazards that threaten your wireless lifestyle. That means protecting your mobile device as well as all of the personal information that goes with it. We’re also pretty good at saving you some serious money.

So it doesn’t come as a total surprise that we’ve taken a spot on the Inc. 500 List in 2012 as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. Not to mention recognition in Crain’s Salute to Entrepreneurs and receiving the prestigious 2012 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility.

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