Investigating the “Bring-Your-Own-Network” Phenomenon

by Jeff Wiener on August 30, 2012

Over this past summer we here at theTelecomblog have written a number of articles on the complicated BYOD phenomenon, in which employees bring their own personal mobile devices into the workplace creating a myriad of security concerns and vulnerabilities. But as corporate IT departments still scramble to assemble some sort of defence against the BYOD movement there’s already emerging a new (and somewhat associated) trend, Bring Your Own Network (BYON).

A by-product of the increasingly ubiquitous hot-spot technology that allows each mobile device to create its own mobile network, the BYON movement is a potentially dangerous new trend, one that certainly necessitates a new approach to network security, one in which not only internal devices (BYOD) are untrusted, but internal networks are untrusted as well.

With recent stats still finding approximately one quarter of businesses unequipped to handle the extant threats of the BYOD movement, I have to think that almost no one is ready for the challenges associated with employees bringing their own networks to work, but they definitely should be.

There’s no question that the BYOD phenomenon comes with a distinct downside and an upside, as a recent survey I read found that while BYOD network security threats were very real, the flip side was that by allowing employees to bring their own devices to work accompanied by a greater flexibility in their work schedule, employees worked an additional 5 to 20 hours more per week…but I digress.

The newly emerging BYON movement is not difficult to understand. Under the old network management scheme companies were able to define who and what could access the network, and what they could access while they were connected. In the modern business world it’s not unusual for companies to block many popular (yet generally unproductive) unsecured sites like Facebook, but unfortunately the BYON movement makes that approach obsolete.

You see, as employees continue to bring their own mobile devices to work, they’ve discovered that they can get more online accessibility by using their handsets as hotspots, accessing unsecured networks at the office. Not only that, but it’s not difficult to tether that mobile device to your office PC or laptop, opening your secure network up to a host of potential vulnerabilities. In fact, for many instead of transfering devices between the home and office, its just easier to transport one’s network.

But like the BYOD movement, the newly emerging BYON cannot be solved by corporate policy or through any other single point solution. Both are complex and multifaceted issues, and rather than be solved, they both need to be managed by the right mix of “people, process, and technology.” Simply put, in this ever changing network landscape, IT personnel must assume that networks and devices are hostile and not to be trusted, and they must find new ways to secure their data in this hostile environment.

While I’ll admit it’s a shameless plug, as I’ve written before, to traverse the dangerous waters of the BYOD (and BYON) ocean one needs a safe and secure platform, and in a BYOD market where everyone brings whatever device they want to work and connects to whatever network they want (BYON), the only way to ensure network integrity and data security is to employ secure software, and network hardware – like Avaya’s IP Office 8.1, Cisco’s ASA firewalls, Acme Packets Session Border Controllers …

If you’re interested in looking more closely at such a solution, or having a discussion about BYOD, please give me a call at Digitcom.

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