Keeping Business and Personal Computing Separate for Better Cybersecurity

Keeping Work and Personal Computing Separate for Better Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a growing challenge for all businesses. In today’s work from home climate, there are a whole new set of obstacles and challenges. The remote work trend is sure to continue into the foreseeable future. Added flexibility for workers is a great thing, however the temptation for remote workers to mix business and personal computing can lead to significant cybersecurity risks and other issues.

Fortunately, there are ways your business can secure your office technology and resources.

Why Mixing Personal Computing with Work Can Cause Problems

Whether you are a business with multiple employees or teams working remotely, or a solo entrepreneur, it’s best to keep business and personal computing separate. For cybersecurity reasons alone, it is best to keep personal and professional data and devices separate.

The Problem With Personal Stuff on Business Devices

It’s not uncommon for employees to put their personal data and apps on business computers, smartphones, and tablets. However, this can be problematic for both employer and employee.

For employers: When your employees use work devices for their personal usage, it is a waste of company resources. This is especially true of printers, which have physical assets (paper, ink) that can get used up when staff members use the machine for their own needs.

Allowing your employees to use business devices for personal activities could potentially make the company more susceptible to leaks or security issues. For example, social media sites and especially the links shared therein are often plagued with clickbait and sketchy advertisements.

For employees: Mixing personal and professional also means there is no clear separation of ownership. Personal data stored on a business device may be subject to corporate policy, which may not be desirable if, say, you as the employee have a hobby as a photographer and want to sell your photos online. You don’t want the company “owning” your personal photos!

Furthermore, there may not be any way to ensure that your personal data is completely private or protected from colleagues or management.

Basically, if you store personal stuff on a company device or access personal accounts on a company device or network, you should assume that other people will see your activity to at least some degree. And rightfully so—companies may be liable for activities that involve their devices, therefore it’s their prerogative to monitor and ensure that activity.

Personal activities, such as browsing social media and online shopping, create an increased risk of a cybersecurity event. Using a business device for personal browsing exposes data, networks, and other devices to unnecessary risk. This is also true of performing business tasks on devices used for personal activities.

The Problem with Business Stuff on Personal Devices

Having business data on personal devices is even more problematic than personal data on business devices. First and foremost, business data is more difficult—if not impossible—for the company to protect if it is on an insecure, unmonitored personal device.

First, personal devices and networks aren’t generally subject to corporate security policies. They can be potentially accessed by family, guests, or even rivals or business competitors. You could also suffer a serious data breach or erasure, where an employee could potentially overwrite or delete an important document or spreadsheet by accident.

Mixing business and personal computing leads to a general breakdown of accountability.

How to Keep Business and Personal Computing Separate

Maintaining a clean separation between business and personal computing can be easily accomplished with the right planning, policies, and infrastructure.

Utilize device management software

Companies can issue mobile devices with mobile device management (MDM) software and prohibit use of personal devices for business purposes altogether.

For example, you can use Microsoft Intune, which is part of Microsoft Endpoint Manager. Microsoft Intune offers mobile device and operating system management with cloud-based administration. It is available for phones, tablets, and computers, and is included in certain versions of Microsoft 365. Per device licensing is also available.

Set up secure business networks and separate guest networks

For clients and customers visiting the office, your company should provide a separate “guest” network, fully disconnected from the company network and restricted.

Employees should never connect personal devices to a network used for business data. The company IT department may not be able to support every personal device or make sure devices like cellphones are secure and free from viruses, spyware, and malware.

Instead, your company can provide a segmented, fully isolated “guest” network and encourage employees (and other visitors) to use that for their personal smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

Having too many devices on a business network can lead to bandwidth and performance issues anyway, so there’s sound reasoning behind segmentation even beyond the cybersecurity implications!

Ensure remote workers have access to and are educated on using remote desktop and VPN

Remote work creates additional challenges for business cybersecurity. Workers may be tempted to just use their personal computers in their comfy, nicely decorated home offices, however this can still lead to problems.

If users are allowed to use personal devices, they at least need to ensure they are connected to the company network via VPN. This will help obfuscate activity from other devices on the home network and provide a more secure connection to company resources.

When possible, users should be encouraged to use remote desktop (or RDP). Using RDP, users can connect directly to their in-office computers as if they are sitting at their desks at work. Ending the RDP session disconnects them from the work computer and its resources.

Institute and communicate clear company policies

Make sure company policies on data access and the usage of personal devices are clear. Explain the importance of the policy and why it is important for cybersecurity. For example, business data that is stored on personal devices could be exposed if a device is subject to forfeiture or search in the event of a legal issue.

Is Your Business Struggling with Mixed Use Devices?

Every business needs to take proactive steps to establish policies and enforce rules to protect infrastructure and data. The more users we have working remotely, the greater the risks of mixing business and personal computing become. If you’re concerned about the integrity of your resources due to the mixing of business and personal activities and devices, CDS can help!

CDS Office Technologies delivers high quality managed technology services that can establish a clear delineation between business and personal computing. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your business.