Shadow BYOD Runs Rampant at Federal Agencies


Many federal employees may be ignoring the rules around using personal devices for official work, according to a new poll.

Federal employees appear to have discovered a foolproof way to skirt their agency’s ban on using personal devices for official work – simply do it anyways.

About half of the 1,000 federal employees surveyed in a new poll said they use their personal device to check their work email and download work documents, according to a poll by Lookout, a mobile security company.

The practice of using personal devices to connect to work networks without the employer's knowledge or oversight  – also known as shadow BYOD – can pose a serious security risk for agencies, according to the report accompanying the survey results.

“To forget mobile when securing an agency is to leave the agency unsecured,” the report stated. “The federal government needs to consider the devices that are on its networks because they are accessing data, whether they like it or not.”

Not all agencies prohibit the practice. And even at the ones that do, the rules aren't ironclad. When respondents working at agencies where personal devices are forbidden were asked whether the rules have actually influenced their behavior, 40 percent said no.

All told, about a quarter of federal employees said they send work documents to their personal email accounts, according to the report.

They’re not alone.

The nation’s former top diplomat, Hillary Clinton, has gotten a lot of slack recently for using her personal email account to conduct all government-related business throughout her four years in office. And a survey conducted earlier this year by Government Executive Media Group’s research arm revealed one-third of respondents said personnel at their agency used personal email for government business at least sometimes.

Although about half of those polled in the Lookout survey said they are well aware of the potential risks associated with shadow BYOD, the vast majority of them said they will likely continue to use personal devices for work. 

“People value their convenience very highly and usually will take the path of least resistance to accomplish their goals – risky or not,” the report stated. “Employee education is important, but federal agencies need technology to back them up when education falls through.”

The survey was conducted by Market Cube in late June.

(Image via Georgejmclittle/