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Blurred Lines: Why using your work device for personal use is a bad idea!

If you’re running your work and life on one device…stop right now!

With more staff now about to “return to office”, businesses and organisations are fine tuning their approach to remote working and working from home. Whilst the discussion is heavily focused on whether to have everyone back in full time, or how and when to offer flexibility and work-from-home options longer term, there are some other key considerations – especially around IT security and device use – that need to be addressed before we speed any further down the work from anywhere highway!

Despite IT vendors now ubiquitous claims that COVID-19 brought about 2 years’ worth of digital transformation in 2 months…let’s not forget what it actually took to get everyone up and running remotely fast! Especially from an IT security perspective, there are a few things that may have been shortcut behind the scenes just to get things to “work” …fast. As we discussed previously in our post about the need to circle back to IT Security, during the ramp up to remote working:

  • New or different access controls and permissions may have been enabled..
  • New cloud apps and services may have been rolled out – mostly likely without any due diligence or planning process …
  • Not to mention, hardware/device shortages may have necessitated bringing older devices back into use, or caused people to rely on their personal devices for work from home purposes.

Revisiting each of these issues is super critical before you go any further, but given the current hardware shortages fueled by lingering COVID-19 demand coupled with a global chip shortage, many of you may be tempted just to keep using the device you’re using for both work and life purposes…and continue to let your team do the same… it’s less hassle right?

Here is why this is NOT a good idea, and why you need to get in touch with your Managed Service Provider, account manager, or hardware vendor now, and get on the waitlist if you need to for a decent enterprise-grade device upgrade for either your work or personal device!

“But we’ve got a company policy about personal use of work devices”

That’s great! But here’s what’s really happening. In a series surveys conducted by leading security vendors in late 2020, people said they were routinely using their work devices for personal use. The majority – 53% – said they send and receive personal email on their work devices, while 52% read news, 38% use their work device to do their online shopping, and 25% to access their social media accounts. What’s more 1 in 4 admitted to downloading and installing non-company software on their work devices! (And that’s just who owned up to it!)

But in a BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device” set-up, many staff aren’t actually issued official work devices. Here too the results show that 56% use their personal devices as their work devices, with roughly the same number accessing their work email over their own phones.

That’s an awful lot of people’s personal data and activity exposed to their employers, and a concerning amount of possible proprietary and confidential company data flowing through (or maybe even sitting on) people’s personal devices!

Here’s why you should stop using your personal device for work

Cybercrime is a big deal – it always has been and its only gotten more extreme with a surge of COVID-19 related phishing scams.

No matter where or how you access your company’s data, you have a responsibility as an employee to protect your organisation’s private and confidential data, and there are penalties in place – even here in Australia – for employees who are found to negligently expose their company’s data through a cyber incident or data breach.

Unless you’re a serious techy, most people don’t have enterprise-grade security protections applied to their personal devices, thereby potentially exposing the company data they access from those devices.

And if you’re a parent with kids you’ve had to home school at some stage over the last year or so, think about how many times have you handed your personal device over to your kids to check something or do something on…not really thinking about the fact that you’ve got work apps and data open or running on that device as well…

And why you should stop using your work device for personal stuff!

Pre COVID we all talked endlessly about work-life balance – a discussion which seems to have gone up in smoke once we all had to start working from our dining tables! But one way you can claw back some balance is to separate out your work and home life is to have different devices from those purposes – when you’re online for work you’re on one, and when it’s your personal time you’re on the other!

The other consideration is that more employers are now actively monitoring activity on corporate and work devices with the move to remote working. This is a key IT security necessity and not implemented to “spy” on employees, but nonetheless, mobile device management and monitoring tools and products employers use to track worker’s online activity to protect against possible cyber incidents or data breaches may just provide your employer access to your personal photos, texts, emails or personal medical or financial records you keep or access from that device…

And finally, let’s face it, cleaning data off devices is an absolute pain – even in the cloud age, there is a checks and balances process that takes time and effort. What if you change jobs and have to relinquish your device and are then faced with cleaning up or off all your personal data before handing it back over? This is nobody’s idea of a rocking Saturday night!

Not to mention that just moving or transferring data in most cases won’t actually wipe it from the device, so it might still be sitting on the device once you hand it back. Or, if you do just hand your device back to IT to handle it, they are likely to wipe, replace or destroy the hard drive ready for redeployment, along with all of your data with it!

Long story short

When it comes to device use for work and life – divide and conquer.

We’re sure you now agree, there are a host of very important reasons to make this happen (more important that you previously realised right?). And given the hardware shortages forecast at the moment, we’d recommend you take some action sooner rather than later.

If you’d like some advice on enterprise-grade devices, mobile device management and control solutions, or timelines for hardware upgrades or delivery, get in touch on 1300 629 786 or contact us here.