Secure Containers for BYOD

The fundamental precept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) was to provide flexibility to corporate users so they can transition seamlessly from personal context to work context and vice versa on their personal devices, resulting in increased productivity for the business, and satisfied users. Business concerns about security and personal privacy concerns made this a hard problem, and providers came up with the concept of “dual persona” devices to crack this. Users would get separate container for business applications including content, apps, email, contacts, and more.

While Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are yet to address this problem, container solutions are available today with more on the horizon. MDM solutions have provided for years, secure containers for sharing sensitive information. Information provided on secure containers can be centrally managed with the capability to remotely lock and wipe the information when necessary.

Recent slew of announcements and sample implementations highlight container capabilities as an extension to the operating system — Knox for Samsung and Balance for BlackBerry, for example. The primary use case for these containers is the dual personality phone. Dual personality phones would keep personal and work stuff separate, so the organization could better manage sensitive information without invading user privacy. For example, enterprise mobile apps could be run only in the corporate workspace and any data saved on the device can be wiped on exit. Business email and contacts could be managed less strictly, but you could certainly avoid the intermingling of personal and business.

However in a recent report, an IT leader at Starz who has been on the BYOD journey for several years provided interesting insights.  Users didn’t like the idea that they had to be in one world or the other. Some employees were confused by having to deal with two different sets of interfaces. In a nutshell, the flexibility afforded by BYOD was lost by this separation.  Some employees would rather that the company issued them a device for business purposes than let the company invade their personal device. 

There is no doubt that BYOD is happening. The jury is out on the end user adoption of dual personality phones for BYOD. The benefits are clear, but the adoption curve may vary depending on the culture and needs of the organization. There isn’t going to be a simple answer that fixes all the problems arising from mobile access and BYOD.  You’re going to have a mix of corporate devices and BYOD for the foreseeable future. One size fits all approach won’t work. You are going to have to tailor a mobile device management solution that fits your organization’s BYOD security needs and the employee culture.