As we've discussed extensively in this space, BYOD offers an array of compelling benefits to organizations in just about every industry and vertical, but also comes with special security challenges that must be addressed with care. One of those is the public sector. In the course of providing public services, government agencies and their contractors often come into possession of confidential data whose exposure could carry dire consequences both for private citizens and national security. BYOD concerns for the public sector, therefore, demand extraordinary care. Here are two ways to mitigate those concerns.
1. Enforce strict limitations on the type of data that can be accessed offsite or on BYOD devices
At its full potential, BYOD gives employees nearly unfettered access to the data, documents, and files they need no matter where they are or what device they're using. This increased data accessibility improves employee productivity and often enhances employee engagement and availability as well. To mitigate BYOD concerns for the public sector, however, it may be advisable to place limitations on data access from unfamiliar networks, offsite locations, and/or BYOD devices so that the most sensitive information remains protected behind the organization's perimeter.
To do so, organizations and the VARs who advise them must first classify the data assets at hand, prioritizing them by sensitivity and risk in order to identify the assets that must never be placed in danger of leakage or theft due to BYOD. Then DLP and MDM solutions can be implemented and configured to ensure that those assets are never allowed to leave organization servers, whether as email attachments, copied and pasted text, uploaded files, or the like.
2. Enforce strict access controls for sensitive data
In addition to data use and sharing limitations, the aged government agent cliché of a "need to know basis" must also be brought to bear in any strategy aimed at mitigating BYOD concerns for the public sector. In any given organization, there may (and most likely are) a number of employees who have been granted access to data that they do not actually need in the course of their daily job responsibilities. The seriousness of BYOD concerns for the public sector demands that this issue be addressed by limiting access to sensitive data to only those employees who actually need it to perform their job functions.
While cataloging and classifying sensitive data assets, organizations and their VARs should take a hard look at which employees are cleared to view what data, and why. After doing so, they can more confidently implement tighter access controls in order to minimize the risk of data loss or theft. In addition, organizations may choose to allow cleared employees access to certain types of data only while onsite or on organization-issued devices. Not every employee needs the ability to perform every job function from every device, after all.
BYOD concerns for the public sector must not be taken lightly. Given the sensitivity of the data that public sector organizations handle, large numbers of private citizens could see their identities stolen and government programs placed in jeopardy as a result of a breach. While these dangers do not invalidate BYOD as a strategy for the public sector, they do mean that public sector organizations must adopt BYOD with the greatest of care.
How would you address BYOD concerns for the public sector? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.