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Slow progress with BYOD threatens smarter working in public sector

Andrew Smith

Failure to embrace BYOD may drive public sector staff to “shadow IT”, raising security risks. Large parts of the public sector have yet to authorise the use of BYOD devices, according to new research. Contributor Andrew Smith, Group ICT Services Director Kyocera Document Solutions UK

A survey of staff across the public sector found that 38 per cent of respondents said that their organisations’ current use of BYOD is unauthorised. The findings provide further evidence of the pressures faced across the government sector to keep pace with the growth of remote and flexible working trends. Public sector organisations that continue to prohibit BYOD risk missing out on the benefits of smarter working, as well as driving staff to ‘shadow IT’, creating a whole host of serious cybersecurity risks.

The research, conducted by GovNewsDirect, surveyed the views of 406 staff across 348 public sector organisations, explored the attitudes and perceptions of staff towards how their organisations operate and their use of technology. The results showed that in addition to a significant proportion of public sector organisations currently prohibiting BYOD, 42 per cent of respondents reported they were ‘not sure’ how they would describe their organisation’s BYOD progress in five years.

This uncertainty shows that public sector organisations are struggling to get to grips with BYOD, which is critical to enabling smarter working environments. BYOD capabilities can support staff to securely access the information and services they need so that they are able to work from anywhere, at any time, leaving them much less reliant on a single fixed workspace.

However, Kyocera’s research also uncovered a range of cybersecurity concerns that could impact the public sector’s adoption of BYOD. The security of IT infrastructure is currently the biggest security concern among staff (31 per cent), but concerns over the security of connected devices is set to grow from 11 per cent currently to 23 per cent in five years’ time. This rapid increase may explain the significant number of public sector organisations that prohibit BYOD, and the uncertainty over adoption in five years’ time.

Andrew Smith, Group ICT Services Director at Kyocera Document Solutions UK, commented: “The results of the survey clearly show that staff in public sector organisations are concerned about the security of their IT Infrastructure. It is therefore understandable that a number of organisations are prohibiting the use of BYOD as, in their eyes, the more devices that are connected to their network, the more routes that are available for cyber-criminals to target.

“However, if organisations continue to prohibit, rather than embrace, BYOD, they could drive staff to use ‘shadow IT’. This means that, as staff increasingly expect BYOD capabilities in their workspaces, prohibiting this could result in staff turning turn to, for example, unauthorised cloud storage platforms to share information and sending emails with sensitive information to personal accounts. So, if organisations do not listen to the needs of users, it is more likely that staff will attempt to circumvent security measures in an effort to work in a more flexible manner. For a sector that holds a large amount of sensitive citizen data, this should be a huge concern.”

Instead, public sector organisations need to consider the strict guidelines on data security that they operate under and put in place a clear and robust BYOD strategy before employees start using their own devices to access data. Only then can security risks be minimised and the ‘smarter working’ benefits of BYOD fully realised.

Andrew concluded: “BYOD has become the cornerstone of smarter working environments, helping to bring in a reduction in costs, increased productivity and better service delivery. However, without the foundations of secure IT infrastructure and a clear strategy to develop and implement BYOD policies, public sector organisations will struggle to stay secure and gain the benefits of smarter working environments. To remedy this, they should look to work with Managed Service Providers who have the knowledge and experience to help them adopt safe and secure BYOD strategies.”

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