What are the risks of BYOD?

As companies cut costs, and employees desire more freedom of choice, they increasinglybring their own mobile  devices to work. . The opportunity to eliminate the significant expenses associated with corporate mobile devices excites even the most staid CFO, and the IT guys are told to “make it work.” This development has come to be known by its acronym“BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device).

Sometimes there is no enforced policy in place. Employees do what they want, and permission happens later, if at all. The nurse brings her personal iPad to the hospital and uses it to record patient data she sends via email to the doctor, in addition to reading a book during precious downtime. The salesperson plugs a smartphone into their work PC to charge or sync something, or check personal email over the corporate Wi-Fi.

Using your personal device in the office is convenient and simple, but it’s not secure. Do you have anti-virus installed? Is your iPad’s wireless connection encrypted? Is the app being used secure? What if the device is lost on the bus on the way home—the device with confidential patient information, emails, or presentations on it?

One of the IT Department’s deepest concerns is regulated data. Almost all businesses operate under some form of regulation where fines or penalties are imposed in the event of a data breach: the leak of personally identifiable information like names, addresses, account numbers, and health records.

Then there’s the issue of your device breaking something else on the network. While your company’s IT guyhas a relative lock on all the work laptops, desktops, and even some of the mobiles, the IT department quickly loses control if you bring your new Droid or iPad and then connect it to the corporate network. Now the IT guy has to worry if that last app you downloaded will infect other computers on the network.

No matter what you do, make sure whenever you use your BYOD on a wireless network that the device is protected.  I use VPN specifically when I’m on my portable wireless devices. If I’m on my PC laptop, iPhone or iPad and I’m traveling on business, I know I’m going to be connecting to various free public Wi-Fi services at the airport and in my hotel or at a coffee shop. Before I connect to any Wi-Fi, I launch Hotspot Shield VPN. It’s a free VPN, but I prefer the paid version; the expanded paid option is a little quicker and offers a cleaner interface. Either way, it’s agreat option that will protect your entire web surfing session, securing your connections on all your devices and eliminating some of the potential headaches for your IT department.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.