BYOD in manufacturing is set to grow at a rapid rate, with IHS Technology research concluding that employee-owned handheld devices like smartphones and tablets will play "an increasingly important role in manufacturing settings for 2014 and even beyond." As it does other industries, BYOD in manufacturing has the potential to increase employee engagement and productivity, streamline operations for maximum efficiency, and drive faster innovation, greatly benefiting the organizations that adopt it. It can also greatly benefit the VARS selling BYOD. Within manufacturing, however, BYOD can cause some specific concerns. Let's look at three of them, and how VARs can help.
1. Rogue device access
BYOD in manufacturing can give employee-owned devices both local and remote access to production and supply chain systems. On the plus side, this can allow supervisors to handle issues and keep on top of operations no matter the time or place. But opening systems up to noncorporate devices can also open those systems up to interference, whether malicious or inadvertent. The diversity of devices employees bring to the table and the frequency with which they might upgrade or replace those devices further complicates matters.
To prevent problems from arising due to rogue device access in manufacturing settings, organizations should look to Network Access Control (NAC) solutions that allow them to lock down device access to production networks. VARs with expertise in the NAC market can help them choose the best options.
2. Malware infecting employee devices and manufacturing systems
While we're on the topic of malfunctions introduced by employee devices, what about the risk of malware? Malware can cause devices to behave unpredictably or can even give control of the device to a malicious third party. And, unfortunately, malware spreads easily on handheld devices, particularly Android devices. The lure of free or low-cost smartphone apps is often too much for device owners to resist, leading to the download and spread of malicious software. Once downloaded, that software can interfere with device performance or even spread to corporate networks, causing outages, failures, and data theft.
To address this risk of BYOD in manufacturing, VARs should recommend that customers install and regularly update antivirus and malware protection software on both endpoints and network appliances. Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions that validate devices' security settings and configuration will also help by preventing improperly configured devices from gaining access to vital systems. Organizations must also havestrong BYOD policies in place to govern proper use.
3. Intellectual property concerns
Rogue device access and malware are just two of the ways BYOD in manufacturing can raise the risk of intellectual property theft. In manufacturing environments, employees often work with confidential or proprietary corporate data, designs, and processes, the leakage of which can spell disaster for the business. Giving employees access to that information on devices they own and take home at the end of the day can be hazardous. Manufacturers may be reluctant to adopt BYOD for that reason.
Several different solutions exist to mitigate these risks. Virtualization technologies can ensure that employees have access to needed information while on the clock without saving any of the information to the devices themselves. Other applications can segregate corporate and personal information and applications on the devices, giving companies visibility and control into employees' access to company data without violating the privacy they expect for their personal device use. Strict, policy-based data access controls and enforcement also help. VARs can use these technologies to address manufacturers' intellectual property concerns.
The enhanced productivity, engagement, efficiency, and innovation that BYOD in manufacturing can bring are no joke, but neither are the security risks that BYOD can create in manufacturing environments. As you can see, however, even the most serious of the BYOD security concerns can be addressed, as long as you know the issues and the solutions available. For the knowledgeable VAR, BYOD in manufacturing can boost revenues and help drive long-term customer relationships. To start, learn about the BYOD landscape from our team of information security and business development specialists.
Should the manufacturing industry adopt BYOD? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.