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Bring Your Own Device Policies: Helpful or Hurtful?

byodBring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a trend that’s being accepted by many mainstream manufacturing companies. This is especially popular among the new generation of engineers and technicians who are taking over the factory floor. But is BYOD the best policy within a company that promotes a strong safety culture?

Graduates who are now coming into the industrial sector are more accustomed to using Facebook, Whatsapp, and emails than conventional software programs. And even older engineers and technicians are adapting to using new technology within the working environment. But this doesn’t mean smartphones and tablets can always be allowed within company networks and on the plant floor.

Cutting Costs

It can be expensive to set up company owned devices for network use while on the plant or factory floor. Laptops alone can cost several thousand dollars depending on the model, and to hand those out to an entire company compounds the expense. Tablets are a bit cheaper, but the cost of giving one to every employee in a plant, even just 30 to 50 people, can add up quickly.

Allowing employees to bring their own devices, such as smartphones and tablets, cuts that cost completely. On top of that, employees replace those devices on their own, so that cost isn’t falling on the company. Instead, the saved money can be put towards manufacturing, management, or additional security.

Potential Security Risks

While the idea of a worker using their tablet to carry out diagnostics on a particular machine sounds like the ideal solution, there are potential security risks to account for. Whenever users connect to the company’s intranet/internet with their personal devices, they can put the entire network at risk of an external attack. The attack may be detectable by a computer that has an antivirus program it, but may wreak havoc within an HMI panel, PLC, or PAC.

There’s also the risk of losing company files stored on a personal device, especially if the device is hacked or a file is accidentally deleted. This can be disastrous if the data lost or stolen was important company information.

Policy Necessities

If a company does decide to implement a BYOD policy, then appropriate policy measures must be put in place to minimize security risks and other concerns. Requiring strong security on the company’s network, use of passwords to access different parts of the network, and requiring some sort of anti-virus software for each device can reduce risks from external sources.

From there, added policies can include employee behavior to reduce risk of abusing the BYOD policy, policies on data usage, and on saving company documents to private devices. This can provide clear rules and and guidelines for company network use and help prevent abuse of it.

All such factors must be taken into account when deciding to use a BYOD policy as the short-term goal can inflict long-term damage to the company’s infrastructure and its integrity. Using company provided devices can limit the risk of an external attack on the network, for example, but there are costs to consider with upkeep and management of those devices. In the end, it’s up to the company to decide if they’ll implement a BYOD policy.

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