BYOD is NOT the Next Biggest Thing™: Bring me Ye Olde Lappetoppe
You can't plug that thing in there, young man
Something for the Weekend, Sir? Remember BYOD? Well, it’s BYODded off into the sunset. It was the Next Big Thing, just before the next Next Big Thing that came after that and it followed hot on the heels of the Previous Big Thing. Without doubt, BYOD was big and it was a thing – but the party is over.
For the benefit of occasional readers of this column who are not familiar with the expression BYOD – that is, my Mum and the professional dullards who Google me after we meet at boring business networking events (hi, guys!) – it’s an acronym (pronounced "bye-odd") for "Bring Your Own Device".
It means using your own shiny new laptop, smartphone or tablet in the workplace so that you don’t have to put up with the computer supplied by your employer – namely, a third-hand, six-year-old Dell weighing 5kg with cracked screen, loose keys and a missing power cable that you consequently have to keep borrowing off other people.
Quite obviously to anyone with half a braincell to spare, it’s simply a means by which slave-owners wealthy employers absolve themselves of any obligation to invest in your basic work tools and make you pay for them yourself. As I wrote a while back, BYOD really stands for "Buy Your Own Device".
After a couple of years during which employers have been royally shafting you with BYOD, I have noticed a very sudden withdrawal from the policy. In fact, so sudden is this figurative pulling out from this figurative shafting that they are having to figuratively finish themselves off in a figurative sheet of tissue paper.
Since the second week of January, I have seen emails bouncing around from various IT departments that ask employees not to use their own kit at work any more. It turns out that inviting all and sundry to plug whatever they liked into the company network could prove to be a security risk. Shocking, I know. Who’d have imagined such a thing?
Some of these emails hide the failure of BYOD behind some limp-dicked, already-shot-my-load bravado about strengthening security measures in the wake of the Sony hack. One set phrase that appears again and again is: “Internet threats are constantly evolving”.
I hope such evolutionary smack-talk won’t offend badly bearded Aussie creationist nutball Ken Ham. Who he? Here’s our Ken explaining how Noah snuggled up with 50 heterosexual vegetarian pairs of baby dinosaurs on the Ark because God:
I’m glad that’s all cleared up. Fox News should invite him on as one of its science experts.
One of the emails that crossed my inbox was from a big company whose IT department had, to its credit, tried to make BYOD work even though its own staff knew the policy was ultimately doomed. The email purports to be a round-robin about the doubling of enforced password change frequency, but down at the bottom is a little throwaway paragraph that begins by saying: “No immediate action is required for users of company-supplied equipment.”
The next sentence is the stinger: “If a device doesn’t have our security policies and controls, it will not be allowed onto a wired connection.” Even that doesn’t sound so bad until perky young-gun Johnny Ive Jnr runs upstairs to Helpdesk with his Macbook Pro, only to be told to get stuffed because these particular “security policies and controls” turn out to be kludgy add-on routines tied in to Active Directory logins.
So now it’s not so much “Bring Your Own Device” as “Leave That Bloody Thing At Home”. Unfortunately, that gives us an acronym of LTBTAH, which isn’t so much an acronym as an initialism because you can’t pronounce it. Well, OK, you can pronounce it if you try really hard but it sounds like you’re trying to stifle a sneeze and it’s blurted through your mouth.
Surely this is my opportunity to coin a brand new acronym and donate it to the computing world. I was thinking of something easy to pronounce such as KYDISH, which stands for “Keep Your Dodgy Insecure Shit at Home”, but I fear the naughty S-word might hinder ISO adoption.
Besides, the situation is more complicated than that. While organisations are drawing back from full-on BYOD, this is only for cabled connections. Apparently, connecting your own kit to the company network via Wi-Fi is not being restricted, since Wi-Fi connections are not a security risk.
OK, when you’ve stopped laughing… Calm down. Take deep breaths. Ready?
You don’t have to know anything about network security to be aware that open password Wi-Fi is about as secure as a gaping handbag in a shopping trolley. Yet this is what is being offered: we should all now connect our own devices for work using the same vulnerable wireless connection as the one foisted on visiting guests. Yes, that’s the Wi-Fi connection labelled with your unmistakable company name and appearing in everyone’s lists alongside “BT-Starbucks” and “_theCloud”, without a padlock symbol next to it and prompting you for a password that’s probably “guest”, “hello”, “password” or the name of the street outside.
Now all my emails to and from senior management and production departments – I can be dead important at times, I’ll have you know – can be picked out of the air by anyone planted in the next room or even sitting outside on the steps and looking up at the street sign on which someone has so conveniently printed the company’s Wi-Fi password.
So this means I need to invent a more qualified acronym for the BYOD withdrawal since it turns out I can still use my own device after all, just not with an Ethernet cable. I came up with ‘Keep Network Open But Computer Hardware Ethernet Externally at Zero’. Unfortunately, it has been pointed out to me that this would be pronounced KNOBCHEEZ, which by remarkable coincidence is my least favourite flavour of Pringles.
Given the tone of the emails flying around on this topic, I also suspect there may be more stick than carrot in the implementation of this massive IT policy U-turn. They should put up posters: “BYOD beware!”
Anyway, the acronym I’ve come up with is LYNDA HOGS, which is easy to say and memorable too. LYNDA HOGS stands for “Leave Your Network Device At Home Or Get Sacked”.
LYNDA HOGS will, of course, only apply to my laptop. As far as she’s concerned, my Appel iPak Tablet Retino Airbag Turbo Scrotum 3 will be just fine as it spews its unencrypted data onto the pavement. But that’s just the kind of girl she is. ®
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He thinks you should try to get to know LYNDA HOGS better. Perhaps invite her for a meal or go to the cinema together, then watch the stars for a while before accompanying her safely home. Then agree to the offer of a hot drink and claim that you’ve missed your last train. But keep your hands off her BYOD.