BYO(D'oh)! Avoid Losing Personal Data When Leaving Your Job

There's a lot to love about the Bring-Your-Own-Device-to-Work trend. BYOD employees have only one device to keep track one — and one they choose themselves. Employers, meanwhile, reduce their hardware costs.

But this blending of personal and work lives can come at a cost. The threat of losing confidential company data, either through a data breach or loss — is greater with BYOD, which is why many companies have taken extra precautions to protect data on these employee-owned devices. One popular measure is "remote wiping," a software tool installed on a device that enables companies to disable or even destroy stored data from afar.

Sounds smart, right? But what happens when an employee leaves a company, voluntarily or not, only to discover all of their personal photos, contacts and other private data is gone?

It happened recently. The Wall Street Journal reported this month the story of an independent consultant who, after leaving the company where he was working, discovered his device wiped clean and reset to factory settings. He reportedly lost everything, including photos, music, contacts and apps. As it turns out, the consultant's experience is not uncommon. An Acronis survey last year found that 21 percent of companies perform remote wipes, though the practice may not be legal. 

What's the solution?

Companies have a legitimate interest in protecting their data. But when does remote-wiping cross the line — and how can employees protect the data on their personal devices? Here's some advice: 

  1. Backup all personal data: Back up mobile device data in the cloud or on a personal hard drive (or, better yet, both) to protect it in case a device is stolen, broken or remote-wiped. But — there's always a but, right? — back up personal data only, not corporate data that can fall under a company's privacy policy. 
  2. Read up on company policy: To avoid the headache altogether, always review a company's BYOD policy to find out what it does with personal data once a BYOD worker exits. 
  3. Consider alternative devices: Apple and Android devices are popular with employees and companies alike, but other manufacturers offer ways to segment personal and work data in a single device. With BlackBerry Balance and Samsung Knox devices, for example, IT teams can be selective about which data gets wiped, according BGR

h/t The Wall Street Journal

[Image via WonderHowTo]