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Text overlay on blue background reads BYOD Bring Your Own Device

When spare bedrooms worldwide transformed into home offices in 2020, our physical workspaces finally caught up to our data habits. The line between professional and personal blurred years ago, thanks to laptop computers and smartphones that made company data accessible anywhere. And long after this work approach has gone mainstream (78% of companies report BYOD activities), many companies continue to limp along with half-baked Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

Connecting personal devices to your IT infrastructure creates a new world of security exposure and legal questions. So getting your BYOD policy right is critical to protecting your data—and potentially avoiding lawsuits from inadvertently violating an employees’ civil rights. In this post, we’ll cover key concepts that should guide every organization’s BYOD policy.

Make Sure you Have a Written Policy

Despite widespread BYOD usage, only 39% of companies report having a formal BYOD policy. Start developing your policy by conducting an accurate inventory of all hardware and software assets in your environment. Without a survey, you probably don’t even know what’s connecting to your network. Then establish official policies for handling it all properly. (This blog provides advice on the first steps in creating an effective mobile device management policy.)

Define the Devices Covered by the BYOD Policy

Personal smartphones and tablets are the obvious subject in BYOD. But your policy should specify which ones are allowable, including brand, model and operating system version. Some organizations set up a DMZ (demilitarized zone) that devices must pass through before getting access to the network. This review process can flag devices with outdated operating systems, etc. and require patching prior to connecting to the network.

And at some companies, an employee logging onto the company VPN through their home computer must agree to let the company’s IT team manage the device. That could include wiping data off the device if it gets compromised. Does your policy specifically address these situations?

Balance Security With Usability

Always remember the classic information security triad of confidentiality, integrity and availability. Every policy should include basics like multifactor authentication (MFA) and strong password requirements, but if your BYOD policies are overly restrictive or hard to use, you’ll frustrate users on the availability front and motivate them to look for workarounds. So consider the human factor as you establish your policies. Determine whether you have different groups of users that could require different levels of security. A mobile e-mail user probably doesn’t require the kind of heavy-handed security necessary for someone who regularly accesses sensitive company information remotely.

Make BYOD More Than Just an IT Issue

Recognize that your policy has far-reaching HR and legal ramifications and get stakeholders from those areas involved in writing the policies. Most IT teams working in isolation probably won’t take all the relevant factors into consideration.

For example, if a manager asks the IT team to go hunting on a device for unapproved activities or if the team decides to wipe a device remotely without solid reasons, they may trigger a lawsuit. All data investigations and strong actions involving a personal device should require the approval of at least a second manager, or even a member of the executive team.

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Specify the Support You Will Offer

Carve out some boundaries for what your call center can help with when it comes to personal devices. As with anything in BYOD, the lines get fuzzy between troubleshooting that’s limited to the company-focused aspects of a device and the device’s general operation. If a personal app is interfering with a company-focused operation on the phone, how deeply do you expect your help desk team to wade into the problem? If an employee takes their device to the local cellular store for tech support, do you have systems in place to protect the data that those technicians could potentially access?

Describe Banned Apps and Usages

Some companies outlaw certain apps on personal devices on the grounds that the apps compromise the overall security of the device and data it accesses. (TikTok has been at the center of many of these reviews.) Some company policies state that BYOD devices should never be connected to public WiFi networks. Will you take those stances? How do you plan to enforce them?

In some cases, you may decide that certain company information is simply too sensitive to allow any access from a personal device.

Clearly Communicate the Policy to Employees

Once your policy is ready, make sure that your HR onboarding process includes a walk-through of a clearly worded, written copy of your BYOD policy. For example, your organization may want to reserve the right to remote wipe a personal device if it gets lost or stolen and has a company e-mail account attached to it. Employees need to understand that possibility and acknowledge that they may lose all their personal data if they agree to abide by the BYOD policy.

Most BYOD policy issues come from surprising employees by looking at data on their personal device, threatening to wipe the device’s data if it’s compromised, etc. So it’s critical to build clear discussion of the BYOD policy into your HR process before employees connect their personal device to your systems. One of the best ways to head off lawsuits over civil rights violations is to prove that you require all employees to sign a document stating that they have read and accepted the BYOD policy.

Have a Plan for Removing Access

When an employee leaves your organization, the process for a company-owned device is straightforward: Turn your devices into HR, along with your ID badge and company credit card. But if an employee has been using their own phone, how do you ensure that you’ve shut down their access to your data? Your policy should include a clear deprovisioning process.

Keep Revising Your Policy

Don’t assume a BYOD policy is set in stone. Your policy should evolve over time as your company evolves and adjusts its IT practices and as available technology changes.

If you need help writing a BYOD policy that makes sense for your organization, contact Pratum today.

Laptop with Completed Checklist and text Creating an Incident Response Plan

This year’s non-stop ransomware wakeup call has motivated many organizations to dust off their incident response (IR) plans—or create one for the first time. If you’ve ever endured a breach, you know the value of a well-designed IR plan. By guiding decisions in the critical first hours of an incident, the IR plan can keep a minor situation from turning into an operational shutdown, as well as help your team track down the breach’s root cause, file cyber insurance claims, manage messages to customers and more. Use the following guidelines to make sure your IR plan includes all the essentials.

Check Your Industry’s Requirements

Start by determining what others require of you. In many industry sectors, IR plans are mandated by state law, federal guidelines (such as HIPAA) or your biggest customers’ vendor contracts. For example, more than a dozen states require any company in the insurance industry to maintain a written IR plan, among other best practices. And your cyber insurance underwriter will almost certainly offer you a better rate if you have policies such as an IR plan in place.

Guides for Creating Your Plan

One go-to standard for IR plans is NIST publication 800-61, known as the “Computer Incident Handling Guide.” This 79-page document walks you through all the elements required in an IR plan considered up to industry standards. The guide provides details on tasks such as structuring an IR team, handling incidents as they occur and coordinating responses across departments and organizations. NIST’s approach boils down to this four-part Incident Response Life Cycle:

Incident Response Life Cycle

You should also review the SANS Institute’s more concise guide, known as the Incident Handlers Handbook. SANS recommends that every plan provide a specific process for these six areas:

  • Preparation
  • Identification
  • Containment
  • Eradication
  • Recovery
  • Lessons Learned

What to Put In Your Plan

Based on these resources and other industry guidelines, these are the key elements to include in your IR plan:

  • Your definition of an “incident” – Writing your organization’s specific description of a computer security incident will determine what triggers your IR plan. Typical items that constitute incidents are loss or accidental disclosure of sensitive info, an intrusion or attack on the network or the discovery of a vulnerability that could affect operations. Vague definitions of incidents can trigger unnecessary IR responses even for low-level situations.
  • IR team structure – The team’s size depends on your organization’s size and complexity. The team plan should include:

    – An incident coordinator tasked with managing meetings, keeping notes and documenting actions.

    – People with strong tech skills, IR experience and an understanding of the business.

    – Multiple people with strong communications skills they can use to share information clearly and efficiently in the right directions.

    – Representation from key related areas such as legal, HR, and the physical facilities team.

    – An executive sponsor who can champion the team’s concerns up the ladder and provide visibility to the overall business.

    – A system for rotating IR team members on a planned basis to avoid burnout and promote fresh perspectives.

  • Roles/responsibilities – Clearly outline exactly who does what and establish a clear team leader. Some states’ regulations for certain industries require companies to officially report the name of the person of contact (POC) for information security. Be sure to consider duties your IR team may have in non-emergencies, such as training employees, monitoring threat alerts and participating in relevant industry groups.
  • Incident-reporting procedure – The team’s ability to respond effectively relies on finding out about the incident in a clear, timely manner. Describe whether notifications should take place through a help desk ticket, e-mail, phone call, etc. The plan should also specify procedures for preserving potential evidence. Your company’s ongoing security training should cover the incident-reporting procedure.
  • Communications plan for outside entities – You will probably need to notify people beyond your company war room about incidents. A chart like the one below from NIST shows the variety of parties with which you may need to interact. In your plan, establish clear rules of communication. Sharing the wrong information at the wrong time with the wrong entity could have implications for your cyber insurance, breach notification liabilities, class action suits, breach of contract claims and more. Incident Response Team Web
  • Post-event reporting – After the situation is resolved, the team should issue a report summarizing what happened and what remediations are required. Your plan should provide specifics on who will compile that report and the leaders who get a copy.

Keep It Simple

As you write the plan, remember Einstein’s rule that “Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.” It’s easy for IR plans to get very long and complex, especially as you continue to revise it over the years. But in the excitement and confusion a real incident, people can only follow so many policies. So streamline your plan to the essentials so that it’s more likely to see real-world use.

Building Your External Team

Just as critical as your organization’s internal team is the lineup of external service providers you’ll call on in an emergency. It’s essential to identify and get to know your providers in advance for two reasons. First, service providers that get to know your organization in normal times will be prepared to spring into action with an informed point of view at a moment’s notice. Second, securing the providers ahead of time will help you use your preferred vendors rather than being stuck with an unknown company from your cyber insurance carrier’s preferred provider list. Once you’ve picked a vendor, ask your cyber insurance company to add them to the preferred list to ensure you get to work with your selected partners.

Your external vendor team should include:

  • An attorney with cyber expertise
  • A digital forensics team
  • A breach coach
  • Cyber insurance contact
  • Public relations firm, if your industry is in the public eye

How to Test Your Plan

Your IR plan isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. You won’t know if it works unless you test it. And you won’t know if it continues to work unless you incorporate a specific, regular schedule for review. At minimum, review it once a year. If your business is highly dynamic, it may require more frequent review. Common elements that prompt plan updates include:

  • Changing personnel on the IR team
  • Implementing new technology platforms
  • Winning contracts with new clients
  • Entering new geographic or industry markets with different requirements
  • Increasing budgets that expand your resources

Along with annual reviews, you should plan annual testing exercises that apply the plan to a specific simulated scenario. And whenever a breach actually occurs, review your IR plan at a “lessons learned” meeting to identify areas that need revision.

If you need help creating an IR plan tailored for your specific situation, contact Pratum today.

Screenshot of StopRansomware website

A new federal ransomware website gives one-stop access to a wide variety of government resources for fighting the ransomware wave pummeling America in the summer of 2021. Even small organizations should take time to understand their ransomware risks. Big attacks get the headlines, but 75% of all ransomware attacks strike small businesses, and the government knows it can’t fight this battle without the private sector doing its part. So the feds gathered a long list of resources into a new site called StopRansomware.gov. In this article, we summarize how the site arms you with information for understanding, reporting and combatting ransomware.

The "One-Stop Ransomware Resource"

This site offers three main sections:

  • Basic ransomware information
  • Resources to report and respond to actual attacks
  • Guidelines to reduce the risk of falling to ransomware

The site’s core message is that businesses have to take cybersecurity into their own hands. The government can rattle cyber sabers with Russia all day, but the best defense is each organization following fundamental cyber hygiene best practices. In June, the Biden administration told businesses just that in an open letter. The StopRansomware.gov site’s resources support the letter’s call for businesses to step up to protect both the nation and their own economic interests. The letter stated, “The most important takeaway from the recent spate of ransomware attacks on U.S., Irish, German and other organizations around the world is that companies that view ransomware as a threat to their core business operations rather than a simple risk of data theft will react and recover more effectively.”

Throughout the site, you’ll find information from and links to multiple agencies including:

  • The FBI
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • The Secret Service
  • CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency)
  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
Reporting Ransomware Screenshot

What’s On StopRansomware.gov

As you look through the site’s resources, you’ll find most of the site’s recommendations very familiar If you pay attention to basic cybersecurity hygiene. But the reality is that most of these best practices will still be news to many organizational leaders who have gotten away so far with assuming that ransomware won’t come looking for them.

Key Messages for Ransomware Attacks

The site’s resource section includes a wide variety of slide shows, videos, articles, etc. that highlight essential steps that can massively reduce an organization’s ransomware risk. Several guides provide insights on the risks for specific industries, including K-12 education and healthcare. You’ll also find links to the government’s Sector Risk Management Agencies, which focus on guidance for 16 specific critical infrastructure sectors.

The site provides incident response resources for companies facing an actual attack, including steps to follow during the first hours of an attack. Links let you report the attack to a variety of agencies, with the promise that reporting to any one of them will cascade the message to all other appropriate agencies.

CISA and FBI Alerts Screenshot

One of the best pages to bookmark is the alerts section that provides links to official update feeds from CISA and the FBI. Some of the advisories include papers for responding to specific situations, such as best practices for preventing business disruption from the Darkside ransomware that hit Colonial Pipeline earlier this year.

While you’re in the Alerts section, pay attention to the advisory about the potential sanctions you may face if you pay a ransom. Your decision about whether to pay should factor in potential violations of national security laws.

Other Government Ransomware Moves

Along with the new website, the government has been rolling out multiple other ransomware-related actions in recent weeks. Here’s a recap:

State Department offers $10 million reward – Anyone willing to share information about foreign hackers targeting critical U.S. infrastructure could see a big payoff. The U.S. State Department launched the big bounty, which is explained in detail at the Rewards for Justice site.

Rewards for Justice

Biden issues executive order on cybersecurity – On May 12, President Biden issued an executive order on improving national cybersecurity. Key provisions of the order include facilitating more breach reporting by IT providers, mandating full use of security tools such as multifactor authentication on federal systems, requiring better software security in the government supply chain and creating a review board to examine hacking incidents.

REvil goes AWOL – We don’t know what role the government played in the July shutdown of the famed hacking group known as REvil. On July 13, the organization’s online footprint suddenly disappeared. Did the hackers decide to disband on their own? Did the U.S. Cyber Command take them out? Did Russia strike in response to increasing U.S. pressure to deal with the extensive hacking harbored there? It’s a solid bet that one or both of the governments played a role.

As you seek to make sense of this era of ransomware and create a defense and response plan specific to your organization, contact Pratum for expert advice.

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All images used in this article are from StopRansomware.gov
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