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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Harbert Magazine.
Offices are full of policies. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. There are dress codes, codes of conduct, and in today’s technology-driven workplace, policies on personal devices. Personal electronic devices -- smart phones, tablets, and laptops -- are common in the workplace and can help make employees more efficient and effective.
I like to use my cell phone for work. It’s super-convenient. I have access to my email and learning management system so that I can keep engaged with colleagues, co-authors and students. In the midst of project season, students email or text pictures of their 12-column worksheets and I can troubleshoot without having to be in my office.
The same can be said for other working professionals, whether they are accountants, stockbrokers, or health care administrators. But this is where those corporate policies come back into play. We don’t leave the doors open or filing cabinets unlocked when we leave the office at night. By the same rule, why would we leave our smart devices open for cyber criminals? That’s why firms are placing restrictions or requiring extra safety measures on personal devices in the workplace.
Many people don’t make the connection between a lost smart phone and potential cybercrime at their company. They don’t think about what can happen should the phone fall into the wrong hands, or when using an unsecure Wi-Fi connection. Think about an accounting firm. You have all of your client’s information and as part of the professional standards must keep that confidential. Think about the medical industry and HIPPA. Do you want your medical records or personal information compromised because the scheduling nurse left her phone at Starbucks?
Don’t think it can’t happen to you or your company, because it can. Although firms are being proactive and creating policies, a policy is ineffective in a vacuum. Make sure employees understand there is a policy, explain the purpose of that policy, and make that policy easy to follow.
Adding a simple passcode to your iPhone is no more difficult than locking your office door on the way out. In this cyber age, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Tina Loraas is the C. McKenzie Taylor Jr. Professor of Accounting in the Harbert College