Can Big Data Help Improve BYOD Security?

Bring your own device (BYOD) and big data are pretty big terms in the tech space right now, but so far the conversations about big data and BYOD have been largely separate. Many articles have addressed the problems and headache it is causing IT teams, especially since many companies are not prepared to handle employees bringing their own mobile devices. A survey of small and medium-sized businesses found that 22 percent had a BYOD policy in place. While a select group of companies are actively creating a BYOD environment in their company in order to please their workers and improve productivity, others feel it is being forced upon them by employees who are already bringing their devices to work and posing a significant security risk to the company.

Why are companies so ill-prepared? Part of the problem is that technology has changed so much in such a short amount of time. Desktop computers and laptops have been the norm for businesses for many years, but the last few years have seen the advent of everything from the smartphone to cloud computing. Another aspect is just the sheer difficulty of securing hundreds of mobile devices that are bought through multiple providers especially for small businesses or organizations with a limited IT staff.

Education, in particular, has been dealing with BYOD for some time as students are constantly changing and bringing their own devices on campus. When universities found that monitoring systems were slow and inefficient, they started turning to big data services such as Qubole to boost their security measures.

The University of Texas at Austin, for example, relied on an intrusion detection/prevention system along with custom software tools to help it identify abnormal account behavior and locate compromised systems in real-time while correlating events to identify potential problems. However, the system was slow and unable to use all of the data available to improve security, so the university decided to try Splunk, a big data technology that can collect and search through massive amounts of data. Currently, more than 275 universities use Splunk to help them in their BYOD and other IT security efforts.

Big data helps with BYOD security in a similar manner, as the financial sector is using big data to detect fraud. BYOD is a huge source of data that can be analyzed to detect abnormal behavior just as your credit card company notices when you are suddenly making purchases in another country.

Signs of suspicious behavior or potential threats could include:

  • An unusual computer address accessing the network
  • A single user accessing the network on an unusual number of devices
  • A user logged-in to the network that didn’t swipe his or her badge at security
  • Apps downloaded on mobile devices contrary to BYOD policy

Big data also offers several other benefits improving BYOD security. These include:

  • Troubleshooting outages and discovering when and why the problem occurred
  • Conducting security audits to find out-of-date anti-virus software or OS patches
  • Discover long-term trends to aid in capacity planning, so IT can be prepared for future demand on the bandwidth
  • Detect which types of devices are used the most, so IT can prepare for certain volumes of devices
  • Discovering which mobile devices comply with security policies and which don’t and which employee those devices belong to

Handling BYOD security is a monumental task, and while some businesses may choose to restrict BYOD, for those that must permit mobile devices for one reason or another, don’t forget that all of those devices are a source of data that can be exploited to improve security and identify threats.