BYOD Risk High Among Retail, Financial Services Organizations

Personal devices are not the only devices placing retail and financial service institutions at risk, the study indicated.

Although one in four retail and financial service employees participate in bring your own device (BYOD) programs, 15 percent of companies have no policy in place, according to the results of the ThreatMetrix 2012 State of Cyber-Crime study, conducted by Info-Tech Research Group.

The study, which is based on a survey of 200 U.S. business managers and IT executives within retail and financial services organizations on their level of cyber-security-planning and fraud-prevention solutions, indicated this lack of policy could pose a huge risk to the business and its customers, as employees’ personal devices could unwittingly expose corporate documents to fraud and malware.

"While BYOD often enables a more efficient and productive workplace, businesses cannot ignore the additional risk of unknown devices connecting to corporate networks," ThreatMetrix Chief Technology Officer Andreas Baumhof said in a statement. "As BYOD becomes commonplace across industries, a layered security approach, including device identification and malware protection is crucial to protect corporate and customer data."

Personal devices are not the only devices placing retail and financial service organizations at risk, the study found. Of the companies surveyed, 31 percent allow employees to access work devices for personal use and barely half of organizations limit the personal activities that employees can perform on company devices. One in four companies surveyed said they even allow employees to download software without approval.

"Retail and financial service organizations need preventative measures in place to protect both corporate and employee-owned devices from today’s highly sophisticated cyber-crime threats," Baumhof continued. "Ensuring that every device can be safely used in the workplace is a challenge for which few organizations are prepared. However, implementing robust BYOD policies and cyber-crime-prevention solutions can stop cyber-criminals in their tracks and protect sensitive data."

For companies that allow personal devices, most of those surveyed permit employee access to email (70 percent) and Websites (53 percent), while far fewer allow access to more sensitive data such as file servers (16 percent) and financial records (13 percent).

Desktop computers are still the most widely used devices in the workplace, with 97 percent of organizations surveyed using these devices. Notebooks were used by 85 percent of respondents, followed by smartphones (79 percent) and tablets (55 percent).

"Organizations with mobile devices and employee BYOD devices must ensure that they have adequate levels of protection in place to compensate for the added risks that these devices carry," the report concluded. "Cyber-criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and organized, constantly looking for opportunities to circumvent IT security and fraud-prevention mechanisms."

The report follows a survey released earlier this month by data governance software developer Varonis, which found employees believe BYOD programs put their personal data at risk as well. The survey revealed the most popular method to secure mobile devices was password protection (57 percent), followed by 35 percent who wipe devices remotely and 24 percent who use encryption.