About 85 percent of educational institutions allow their teachers or students use their own mobile devices on institutional networks. In addition to the convenience that BYOD provides university campuses, the influx of smartphones and tablets on university campuses has posed many questions about the security challenges that these institutions face.
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One of the biggest changes that BYOD for enterprise has made to mobile infrastructures on university campuses is the way the network is protected.
The popularity of using personal mobile devices on campus complicates network security. When universities owned all the laptops and desktops that connected to their networks, the IT departments could install security software on the devices themselves. Controlling who could get access was relatively easy, too, being that the IT departments could provide access to the right resources depending on if a teacher, student, administrator, or researcher was using the school-owned device.
In an environment where campus users expect to connect from anywhere using any mobile device, security becomes an important burden that institutions must tackle head on. While using updated software for BYOD environments like BlackBerry security solutions is an ideal way to resolve these issues, institutions will also want to tweak their policies to do the following five things:
- Automate enforcement of access policy, including who’s making the request, when they’re making it, how they’re accessing the network, and what device they’re using to access it. For example, a university’s access policy might allow researchers to get access to certain applications or files from campus but not from their house.
- Automatically detect and moderate Web-based threats that can worsen wireless network performance or lead to security breaches.
- Ensure that private information like grades, tests, and salary information isn’t compromised if a device is lost or stolen.
- Minimize management overhead by unifying all networks and providing visibility to all devices connected to the campus network.
User awareness – second only to security defenses established by the university IT department – is an important security measure that institutions have had to provide. An informed user is one who behaves more responsibly and takes fewer risks when accessing the university’s network. Not only does educating users make them more aware of the potential dangers associated with BYOD, but it also places the responsibly of protecting the network onto them, which is a good thing.
Institutions have started to offer courses to faculty and students to help them understand the BYOD program and all the benefits and risks associated with it. These courses generally help anyone accessing the institution’s network to understand the security risks of using public Wi-Fi, to know what malware is, to understand the importance of sensitive data and how a security breach can affect it, and to know the importance of keeping mobile devices updated with the latest software patches.
Users have also started learning about the risks associated with jail-breaking personal mobile devices, being trained on how to avoid spear phishing schemes and social engineering strategies. Some effective methods of teaching this practice have included role-playing activities where a teacher or student is tested by how they perform in various scenarios where security is at risk.
Flexibility Versus User Density
Above all else, BYOD is ideal for offering flexibility to students and faculty alike. Considering there’s an average of 2.1 devices per user (not to mention that there’s thousands of users on campus at virtually any given time), this flexibility comes at the tradeoff of other logistical challenges. With a high user density comes strained bandwidths and increasingly limited capacities. Possibly the biggest consideration, then, is simply providing enough bandwidth for users.
BYOD for enterprise has introduced many changes to mobile infrastructures on university campuses, with more changes expected as universities try to secure and protect their networks as much as possible.
Have you used BYOD on a campus? What was your experience? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Miles Young is a freelance writer, designer, and tech/business columnist. When he’s not writing about the latest in technology, he’s windsurfing or walking his dog Max.