Martha Buyer
Martha Buyer is an attorney whose practice is limited to the practice of telecommunications law. In this capacity, she has...
Read Full Bio >>

Martha Buyer | March 30, 2016 |


Information Security: Not Without Its Limitations

Information Security: Not Without Its Limitations The third of a three-part series explores the risks on both the employer and employee sides that come with BYOD.

The third of a three-part series explores the risks on both the employer and employee sides that come with BYOD.

Remember back when mobile devices started appearing everywhere? Back when the Foo Fighters were at the height of their popularity, when Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Myers and Amy Poehler were all regulars on Saturday Night Live, I , for one, had two devices. I used one as a mobile phone and the other as a mobile data device. My techie friends convinced me that I only needed one, and reluctantly I agreed. They were right; I only needed one. But I wasn't then -- or now -- running a multi-employee operation where things are very, very different.

About the same time, clients of mine and consultants from around the country started talking about the advantages of permitting employees to use their own, non-enterprise-owned mobile devices for work. For starters, regardless of what the employer preferred, employees were using their own devices anyway -- most often, the employee-owned devices were sexier and had greater functionality than the devices the employer offered. With a shrug and acknowledgment that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, enterprises from all sectors of the economy moved to adapt policies and procedures for the new normal of mobile device management -- either employee-owned and employer-used, or employer-owned and employee-used.

At the time, we agonized over issues of company security, information ownership, intellectual property, and tax policy. While these were, and still are, all valid concerns, it now appears that the concept of bringing your own device (BYOD) to work, and using the same device for both work and personal communications and storage, has fallen out of favor because the conflicting concepts of enterprise security and personal privacy now outweigh the convenience of having a single device.

Varying Concerns

First, as major system hacks have become almost commonplace, information security from the employer's perspective has become a much more critical issue than it ever was. (If you want to be terrified, check out to see a graphic display of the number and volume of data hacks over the past few years.) Enterprises -- particularly those that are publicly traded -- have additional obligations to maintain a high level of not only security, but knowledge of the processes and protections that exist not only in house, but between the enterprise and those with whom it has contact on the outside. Federal law, including, but not limited to Sarbanes-Oxley, absolutely requires it. In addition, senior officers have personal liability which tends to force them to focus on the issue.

Employers and enterprises generally have other obligations that are a function of the kind of work they perform. Consider, at a minimum, HIPAA, which may contain perhaps the most stringent protections of private data that's resident in the enterprise system. It's no longer just credit card information that infiltrators are seeking. It's often personal information -- notably medical and financial -- which can prove more valuable than a single credit card that can quickly be cancelled. Further, although the pretexting scandal at Hewlett-Packard occurred almost 10 years ago (when private investigators were caught searching through trash -- both paper and electronic -- in an attempt to identify an internal information leak), in fact, as recently as this year, enterprising spies have become increasingly brave and creative. Thankfully, so too has law enforcement.

Corporate spying has even hit America's game, with a former official of the St. Louis Cardinals pleading guilty in January of this year to charges relating to his breaking into the network of the Houston Astros. The alleged motivation was to secure highly confidential database information, including scouting reports and other highly proprietary statistics from an arch-rival for competitive purposes. The New York Times has suggested that the attack was motivated by revenge against a former Cardinals executive who had been "successful and polarizing," but who had left St. Louis for Houston where he has been a successful general manager. But I digress.

Other major considerations for employers to weigh include issues related to E-Discovery, where very detailed rules apply to document protection, retention, and destruction. It's very difficult (read: impossible) for the enterprise to protect data if it's gone off with an employee, ex-employee or contractor on that individual's privately owned device. The increasing reliance on electronic information has only made E-Discovery rules and processes more important than ever.


Additionally, employers must also weigh employment law concerns. When does overtime pay kick in when employees are contacted beyond work hours for work-related purposes? The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that non-exempt employees be paid for any time during a given work week when they work more than 40 hours unless that amount of time is minimal. In the 2014 decision in the (long but interesting) case of Mohammadi v. Nwabuisi, an employer was found liable for not compensating an employee for overtime work even though the work performed was done on an employee-owned device.

Finally, changes to the tax code were made in 2011 regarding reimbursement of mobile device expenses that continue to apply. As long as: 1) the device is necessary for the employee to perform his/her work; and 2) "substantial business reasons" exist for the employee to have such a device other than strictly as a vehicle for additional compensation, such reimbursement will not be deemed as income. The only stipulation is that even if the employer chooses to reimburse the employee for 100% of the cost of service, the reimbursable service cost -- even flat rate service -- must be reasonable for the business need.

The IRS has defined "substantial business reasons" to include 1) when the employer needs to contact the employee at all times for work-related emergencies; 2) when the employer requires that employee be available to speak with clients when the employee is away from the office; or 3) when the employee needs to speak with clients located in other time zones outside the employee's normal work day.

Michael Finneran, a well-respected wireless expert and prognosticator, assessed the situation this way: Organizations that have approached BYOD in a business-like fashion with adequate security planning, a well thought-out written mobility policy and a reimbursement plan acceptable to users have fared well. Unfortunately there are still many organizations that haven't taken those steps, and they still face unnecessary legal and security exposures."

The takeaway is this: BYOD has risks on both the employer and employee side. But an entity that's willing to consider the issues and address and revise them as circumstances change, will be well served.

Part one explores the rising importance of data protection, and part two takes a deeper dive into evolving safe harbor protection.

For Mr. G., who taught me that using the right word in the right place is essential to any good piece of writing.


March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.