NEW TECH: SyncDog vanquishes BYOD risk by isolating company assets on a secure mobile app

By Byron V. Acohido

The conundrum companies face with the Bring Your Own Device phenomenon really has not changed much since iPhones and Androids first captured our hearts, minds and souls a decade ago.

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People demand the latest, greatest mobile devices, both to be productive and to stay connected to their personal lives. But big organizations move methodically and in general struggle mightily when it comes to balancing productivity and security. This has led the BYOD dilemma cycling afresh, with each advance of the technology, which is what it’s doing right now.

SyncDog, a Reston, VA-based startup, has jumped into the mobile security space to help companies get a firmer grip on their BYOD exposures. I had the chance to sit down with SynCDog’s founder and CEO, Jonas Gyllensvaan, along with its Chief Revenue Officer, Brian Egenrieder, at RSA 2019.

They dissected the historical context, and conveyed some fresh insights about the societal drivers that make the BYOD such a mercurial operational challenge. A full drill down is worth a listen, and is  accessible via the accompanying podcast. Here are a few key takeaways:

Alphabet soup

When the initial wave of employee-owned iPhones, Androids and Blackberries began turning up in workplace settings, companies reacted by turning to MDM (mobile device management) service providers to handle the inventorying and provisioning of these new endpoints. MDM enabled administrators to oversee smartphones much like desktop PCs.

Soon, the MDMs added password protection and remote wiping capabilities to enable security staff to remotely “brick” a company device gone missing: destroy all apps and files, including any personal data. That was fine – until employees revolted.


“Let’s face it, people will still take pictures and access their personal email, even if it is a corporate device,” Egenrieder noted. “Knowing that Big Brother could remotely wipe your device at any time, causing you to lose everything, created conflict between the security team and the people in the mobile workforce.”

Next came an alphabet soup of advancements: EMM (enterprise mobility management,) MAM (mobile application management) and UEM (unified endpoint management.) These were new categories of services that arose to give admins more granular control capabilities over company-provisioned devices.

Rekindled conflict

Today large organizations routinely make use of one or more of these device management technologies. And yet, interestingly, BYOD conflicts are flaring up, yet again, Egenrieder told me.

What has happened is this: because corporate processes move so slowly, company-issued devices tend to be one or even two generations old. For a new employee, who just wants the job, a company-issued iPhone 7 may be a godsend. But to a C-suite executive, or a tech-savvy millennial, anything less than an iPhone 10 is an insult.

It’s not possible to stop these employees from bringing their personally-owned, leading-edge devices into the mix. In response, companies insist on permission to remotely wipe any personally-owned device that connects to corporate systems, thus rekindling the Big Brother backlash.

“We have this dynamic of people saying, ‘I have more power on my personal device than on my work device, so why can’t I just use my one device for everything?’ ” Egenrieder said. “Most notably, it’s the executive who bring this up first and says, ‘You’re crazy if you think you’re going to remotely wipe my device.’ ”

Virtual workspaces

SyncDog’s solution leverages behavior that has become second-nature with millennials, as well as with more senior employees: reliance on mobile apps. Access to company systems – namely, corporate email and software-as-a-service tools – routes through a highly secure white-label mobile app, which the company brands as its official in-house app.

Jonas Gyllensvaan, SyncDog’s founder, puts it this way: “We put everything into a whole new virtual workspace, where you get a much truer separation between work and private . . . you get  interoperability between applications and a whole new level of security.”

Installing apps indiscriminately is a very poor security habit, of course. And yet we live in a world where adding another web app that fits into our unique portfolio of interests has become a commonplace behavior. I routinely use a jogging app, a ukulele chord charting app and a tidal chart app, for instance. It just so happens that SyncDog’s app is all about isolating and protecting corporate systems extended out to mobile devices.


“Now I don’t have to worry about whether I give my phone to my kids to let them play Angry Birds after dinner,” Gyllensvaan says. “My corporate data is not jeopardized because it sits in its own application on top of my device.”

Gyllensvaan and Egenrieder pointed out a few of SyncDog’s granular functionalities, like a time-bomb feature that bricks the app – but not any other personal apps or files – if the app isn’t used for a certain period of time. But what struck me most is that SyncDog is pivoting a widespread behavior – our reliance on web apps – towards a security mind-set.  It’s a slight shift of the paradigm. We’ll see where it takes us. Talk more soon.


Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

(LW provides consulting services to the vendors we cover.)

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