Can Your Boss Check Your Personal Cell Phone? It Depends.

It takes only one infected app to take down an entire network.

Personal cell phones in the workplace have become a rather controversial topic in recent years. Early on, back when businesses used to ban personal devices, the result was astounding costs to issue phones and tablets to employees. With the adoption of bringing your own device (BYOD) policies, the costs went down but the dangers went up. Apart from the mundane concerns of employees checking their phones constantly or using them to access social media on company time, there are very real risks associated with them.

One study of the Android operating system has found that it would only take a single infected app to completely take down the entire US 911 emergency call system with a DDoS attack. How could something as simple as a game or streaming movie app disrupt an entire nation? The Android platform is based on the idea of open source code, or the ability to let others build their own apps and sell them to the public in third-party app stores. Since it’s difficult for hackers to break into an app like Netflix they create a fake version that looks and acts like the real deal. Users download the “wrong” version by mistake and never know that it’s full of malicious code.

When you go to work and connect to your company’s network with your phone, that malware infects the entire network. This is just one example that makes many employers feel they should have the right to inspect any phones that connect to the network, whether they’re company owned or personal.

According to privacy and employment practices experts, that may just be legally allowable. Without clear federal legislation about how this kind of technology impacts citizens, the rules are usually left up to the individual workplace. That means depending on the company—and in some cases, even depending on the location—the rights to privacy you think you had at one job are no longer in place at another job.

This is just one more reason why it’s a smart move to have an employee handbook that addresses technology and internet use at work. This type of issue can readily be explained before anyone carries any device into the facility and attempts to connect to the network. Any surprises can result in hurt feelings at the very least, and termination or lawsuits at worst. Of course, a solid technology handbook is good for all employees and would encompass other aspects of network security and data breach prevention as well.


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