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Bring your own device (BYOD), a new wave sweeping through multiple industries, has its productivity advantages, but it also can be a nightmare for security professionals trying to ensure a secure environment.

That is the outcome of a new study. While this study focuses on retail and financial sectors, it can give a snapshot of what other industries potentially look like. This survey found one in four retail and financial service employees participate in BYOD, 15 percent of companies have no policy in place. As the BYOD trend replaces strictly controlled corporate-issued devices with a wide variety of consumer-owned devices, this poses a huge security risk to organizations and its customers, according to the ThreatMetrix study.

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Without a layered approach to cyber security, employees’ personal devices can unwittingly expose corporate documents to fraud and malware.

“While BYOD often enables a more efficient and productive workplace, businesses cannot ignore the additional risk of unknown devices connecting to corporate networks,” said Andreas Baumhof, CTO, ThreatMetrix. “As BYOD becomes commonplace across industries, a layered security approach, including device identification and malware protection is crucial to protect corporate and customer data.”

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For companies that allow personal devices, most surveyed permit employee access to email (70 percent) and websites (53 percent), while few allow access to more sensitive data such as file servers (16 percent) financial records (13 percent). Even so, if a cybercriminal gains access to employee email, this can expose corporate information and cause significant damage through account takeover, infected URLs and other malware threats.

Personal devices are not the only devices placing retail and financial service organizations at risk, according to the study. Of companies surveyed, 31 percent allow employees to access work devices for personal use and barely half of organizations limit the personal activities that employees can perform on company devices. One in four companies surveyed even allow employees to download software without approval.

“Retail and financial service organizations need preventative measures in place to protect both corporate and employee-owned devices from today’s highly sophisticated cybercrime threats,” Baumhof said. “Ensuring that every device can be safely used in the workplace is a challenge for which few organizations are prepared. However, implementing robust BYOD policies and cybercrime prevention solutions can stop cybercriminals in their tracks and protect sensitive data.”

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