How to mitigate the risks of using personal devices in the workplace

Brian Thomas, partner, IT advisory services, Weaver

Brian Thomas, partner, IT advisory services, Weaver

Over the past few years, employees have been trading in company-issued phones and bringing their own personal devices — phones and tablets — to connect to work servers. They want to carry a single device to access both work and personal material.

“Many companies have said there are enough people doing this that they no longer need to issue phones. They can just allow everyone to bring their own phones and connect them into the environment,” says Brian Thomas, partner in IT advisory services at Weaver.

However, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend comes with risks that companies need to recognize.

Smart Business spoke with Thomas about BYOD and practical steps to lessen risks.

How is the BYOD trend developing?

This is a strong trend among midsize businesses. As for the Fortune 500 organizations, it depends on the nature of the business. If a company has a lot of sensitive information, it will not necessarily adopt a pure BYOD strategy or will do so with an abundance of caution. Large corporations have information security departments that have been quick to identify the risks. In midsize organizations, there are simply not as many people to force a discussion about risk. Regardless, this is a broad trend that affects many businesses.

What are some of the risks?

The two primary areas of concern are physical access and the users themselves.

The No. 1 risk with mobile devices is that it’s not a matter of if they get lost, but when. If companies enable these devices to connect and receive company data, some of which will stay on the phone, then how do they protect that data when the device is lost and presumed to be in the hands of someone else? The primary methods for mitigating this risk are encrypting the phone’s contents, setting passwords to prevent unauthorized access and remote-wipe features that enable the company to delete the phone’s contents once lost. However, this is complicated in a BYOD scenario because users can connect a multitude of devices to the network, some of which will not support all of these features.

The reason users are a concern with BYOD is because they are often unaware of the risks associated with their mobile device activities. Because they own the phone, they may feel entitled to do with it as they please, including removing security features.

Do certain devices make companies more vulnerable to these risks?

In some ways, yes. The iPhone, for example, is a phone manufactured by one company with one operating system. There are multiple versions, but the uniformity of the product makes it simpler to manage and secure. In the Android world, vulnerabilities are more case-by-case. Similar to Windows PCs, anybody can manufacture the Android phones, and the operating system has to be reconfigured to work with different devices. As a result, updates to address vulnerabilities cannot always quickly be distributed by manufacturers and carriers.

What can be done to manage the risks?

A combination of training and technology can be used to reduce the risks associated with BYOD.

Companies must educate employees about the responsibility they bear when accessing company data on their personal devices. Employees must also be educated about the risks associated with disabling security features, jailbreaking their phone, downloading apps from unknown sources, using open wireless connections and other activities that can compromise security. Employees need to understand that using their personal devices for work purposes requires them to give up a certain amount of freedom. Companies can have employees sign a contract that outlines the rules and consequences for violations, along with the company’s right to remove company data from the phone at any time.

Companies should use technology to enforce a central policy that applies minimum security standards on devices. Many companies implement mobile device management solutions, which assist with enforcing security polices to address the risks associated with lost or stolen phones.

Finally, this is a fast-changing technology area, so companies should always keep an eye on what’s new and assess how it affects their organizations.

Brian Thomas is a partner in IT advisory services at Weaver. Reach him at (713) 800-1050 or [email protected]

Blog: To stay current on audit, tax and advisory issues that may impact your business, visit Weaver’s blog.

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Apple’s Tim Cook meets with China Mobile chairman in Beijing

CUPERTINO, Calif./SHANGHAI , Thu Jan 10, 2013 — Apple Inc.’s Chief Executive Tim Cook met with China Mobile’s Chairman Xi Guohua on Thursday to discuss “matters of cooperation,” a China Mobile spokesman said, raising hopes that a deal between the two tech giants may move forward.

“In the morning, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook visited China Mobile’s headquarters. China Mobile’s Chairman Xi Guohua and Tim Cook discussed matters of cooperation,” said Li Jun, a China Mobile spokesman, in an emailed statement.

No further details will be given due to a confidentiality agreement signed, the statement said.

Apple, which has deals with China Unicom and China Telecom to sell its iPhones in China, has yet to strike a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier by subscribers.

Inking a deal with China Mobile will give Apple access to a massive subscriber base and help arrest the Cupertino firm’s sliding market share in the world’s biggest smartphone market.

In an interview with local media on Thursday, Cook told reporters that he is confident that China will become Apple’s largest market in the near future.

“Currently, Apple has 11 stores in the Greater China region, as well as many resellers. We will continue to expand in China and the number of retail stores we’ll have will exceed 25,” Cook was quoted as saying by news portal Sina Technology News.

T-Mobile USA to soon sell iPhones, cut subsidies: CEO

LAS VEGAS, Wed Jan 9, 2013 — Deutsche Telekom AG unit T-Mobile USA will start selling the Apple Inc. iPhone in about three to four months and will enforce its plan to get rid of cellphone subsidies in a similar timeframe, according to CEO John Legere.

Legere declined to disclose details about the company’s agreement with Apple, except to say that T-Mobile USA’s timing for selling the smartphone would be sooner rather than later, along with its subsidy elimination plan.

“They’re all, I would call them, in three to four months as opposed to six to nine months, Legere told Reuters in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

T-Mobile USA said late last year it would eliminate handset subsidies in 2013 to give customers more flexibility and lower service prices. It said at the same time that it will also sell the iPhone, making it the last U.S. mobile provider to do so.

The company hopes to attract customers from bigger rivals like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless  with the combination of selling iPhones and removing subsidies, which would be a first for the U.S. wireless industry.

The executive said he could possibly increase T-Mobile USA’s market share by 5 percent or higher from bigger rivals who still depend on subsidizing phones to give their customers a device discount in exchange for tying them into a two-year contract.

“If the old industry structure chooses to ignore what we do,” he said, “That’s a potential.”

Jury says Apple iPhone violated three patents, damages unclear

WILMINGTON, Del., Thu Dec 13, 2012 — A U.S. jury on Thursday found that Apple’s iPhone infringed three patents owned by holding company MobileMedia Ideas, though damages have not yet been determined.

The verdict was delivered after a week-long trial in Delaware federal court, said Larry Horn, chief executive of MobileMedia. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

The three patents, which cover features like camera phone technology, were acquired from Nokia and Sony Corp. in 2010, Horn said. Those two companies hold a minority interest in MobileMedia, he said.

Representatives for Nokia and Sony could not immediately be reached for comment.

The trial only concerned liability, and a damages proceeding has not yet been scheduled, Horn said. MobileMedia also has litigation pending against HTC Corp. and Research in Motion Ltd.

“Our goal is really to license these patents broadly to the market,” Horn said.

 

 

Samsung to add iPhone 5 to U.S. lawsuits vs. Apple

SAN FRANCISCO, Thu Sep 20, 2012 – Samsung Electronics Co said on Thursday it planned to add Apple’s iPhone 5 to its existing patent lawsuits against the U.S. rival, a move that could lead to a preliminary sales injunction of the popular smartphone.

The fresh legal step by the South Korean firm comes as Apple booked orders for over two million iPhone 5 models in the first 24 hours and the model hits store shelves on Friday.

Samsung and Apple are locked in global patent battle in 10 countries and the stakes are high as the two technology giants vie for the top spot in the booming smartphone market.

Both companies are also aggressively raising marketing spending to promote their latest products ahead of the crucial year-end holiday season.

“Samsung anticipates that it will file, in the near future, a motion to amend its infringement contentions to add the iPhone 5 as an accused product,” it said in a U.S. court filing.

“Based on information currently available, Samsung expects that the iPhone 5 will infringe the asserted Samsung patents-in-suit in the same way as the other accused iPhone models.”

Apple 2012: Smooth sailing, for the most part, with a strong wind

SAN FRANCISCO ― Apple Inc. coasts into 2012 with a strong wind in its sails, a clutch of envelope-pushing products in its hold, a record share price, and a steady hand at the tiller.

But its very success ― with the market-leading iPad and the voice-enabled iPhone 4S ― is luring cheaper rivals to the surface.

Google Inc’s. Android, launched a few years ago and taking aim squarely at the high-end iOS, continues to attract cellphone makers. Amazon.com Inc’s. Kindle Fire, half the cost of the iPad, is expected to have chipped away at the lower end of the tablet market.

Finally, though many on Wall Street, betting that an iTV and 4G iPhones and iPads will again pack its stores, continue to bank on a share-price climb to as high as $700, some begin to question the sustainability of Apple’s torrid growth pace.

Apple tacked on $43 billion to its top line in fiscal 2011, lifting it to $108.25 billion ― a 65 percent increase from the previous year.

Barry Jaruzelski, a consumer hardware business expert and partner at consulting firm Booz & Co., said to sustain that is effectively to conjure a Fortune 500 company out of thin air ― year after year.

“You become a victim of your own success,” he said. “Can you grow the existing products that much, or can you create a new category that creates $10 billion to $20 billion? That is the challenge.”

When Apple reports earnings Jan. 24, many investors for the first time might be watching for chinks in the armor, especially given Apple’s first miss since 2004 for the October quarter.

“The risk is the sustainability of what they have been doing,” said ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall. “They have put up a huge number and the question is can they continue to penetrate with their current existing product portfolio at these price levels?”

The fear is that the number of people who can afford an iPad or an iPhone is dwindling, he added.

New Apple iPhone 4S fails to wow investors, fans

CUPERTINO, Calif. ― Apple Inc’s newest iPhone left Wall Street and fans wishing for more than a souped-up version of last year’s device, at a time when rival smartphone makers are nipping at its heels.

At his first major product launch since being crowned CEO, Tim Cook ceded the critical iPhone presentation to another executive, and failed to generate the same level of excitement and buzz that predecessor Steve Jobs was famous for.xxThe new iPhone 4S is identical in form to the previous model, disappointing fans who had hoped for a thinner, bigger-screened design. Apple’s shares fell as much as 5 percent, before recovering with the broader market to close down 0.6 percent.

But analysts say the new device sported some new features, such as voice commands, to draw in consumers and is still going to be a big draw this holiday season, particularly as the phone is now available on Sprint’s network in addition to AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

It remains to be seen whether the iPhone 4S can stem market share gains by phones running Google Inc’s Android software. Samsung Electronics, notably, is growing global shipments several times faster than Apple and is now estimated at within a hair’s breadth of catching up in worldwide market share.

“It’s been 16 months and all you’ve got is an A5 processor in the existing iPhone 4,” BGC Partners’ analyst Colin Gillis said of the new Apple phone. “It’s a mild disappointment, but they’re still going to be selling millions of units.”

The iPhone 4S’s voice commands — for sending messages, searching for stock prices and other applications — caught the attention of several analysts who argued it could profoundly change the user experience.

Known as “Siri”, the technology already exists on Android but experts say Apple’s integration was more fluid — a hallmark of the company.

Whether such high-tech wizardry is enough to make the iPhone 4S a must-have in consumers’ eyes and set it apart from the competition, remains to be seen.

“It’s not clear that Siri is sufficient to make or break a purchase decision,” said John Jackson, an analyst at CCS Insight. “It’s a better mousetrap. History tells us users don’t use this technology in great numbers.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s time to shine with new iPhone

SAN FRANCISCO ― Tim Cook finally gets his chance to stride out from under Steve Jobs’ shadow, and he could not have picked a better time or device to mark his unofficial debut as Apple Inc’s. CEO.

The latest generation of the iPhone — still the smartphone industry’s gold standard after four years — is expected to see the light of day this Tuesday, just in time for the holidays.

Even in a dismal economy, consumers should again line up in droves for a souped-up device that also marks Cook’s first major product launch since taking over from Jobs in August.

The so-called iPhone 5 is widely expected to have a bigger touchscreen and faster processor than the current iPhone 4, which helped the company stay a step ahead of rivals in an increasingly competitive smartphone market.

Its challenge will be to “wow” consumers with yet more game-changing innovations and top itself. The aging iPhone 4 is still an unqualified blockbuster: with more than 20 million sold in the third quarter that ended June 25 alone, it is likely to become the world’s top-selling smartphone.

“Consumers view Apple products as a must-have,” said Channing Smith, co-manager of the Capital Advisors Growth Fund, which owns Apple shares. “Apple phones and products have become almost a necessity. We don’t expect them to falter.”

But the latest version of the gadget that helped define the smartphone category is coming at a time when the world economy is slowing and competition is at its peak. More than 550,000 Google Inc Android-based devices — including tablets — are activated each day globally.

Apple’s ability to generate enthusiasm among consumers and its command of the higher-end market, however, may make it less susceptible to a broader slowdown, investors and analysts say.

Cook is likely to take the stage at Apple central at Cupertino’s 1 Infinite Loop, where Wall Street will get a chance to see first-hand how the acknowledged operations maven fares at a major product launch. Although a highly regarded executive, he is not known for pitching products.

Apple product launches are the most closely watched events on the technology calendar. The new model, which some have dubbed the iPhone 5, will have a bigger touch screen, better antenna and an 8-megapixel camera, one source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters in August.