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Mobile Communications

Bring Your Own Samsung

BYOD, at least as far as tech journalists go, is old news. After all, there’s only so many times you can broadcast the ‘Top BYOD risks’ or herald the ‘Best enterprise BYOD security solutions’. The trouble is of course, is that BYOD security is a problem for business in today’s consumer-driven mobile world. You could perhaps blame smartphone manufacturers for making such desirable devices, but when has placing blame ever helped anyone?

Samsung’s latest flagship devices have been pitched squarely at the consumer market, but we all know that those ‘consumer devices’ are going to make their way into the office. So what has Samsung done to address that bane of IT departments, device security

Somewhat overshadowed by its glamorous Unpacked event, the day after Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S7 line it announced a series of initiatives targeting enterprise mobility. Focusing on security, productivity and choice, the solutions will first be available on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, and centre on improvements to Samsung KNOX as well as new programs aimed at appealing to CIOs, like the Enterprise Device Program.

 

KNOX

Unveiled in 2013, Samsung KNOX was touted as “the comprehensive mobile solution for work and play”.

Alexandru Catalin Cosoi, Chief Security Strategist at Bitdefender explains, “Samsung Android devices have the Samsung Knox security feature that’s part of the company’s ‘Samsung Approved for Enterprise’ (SAFE) offerings. The Knox container is completely separated from a user’s personal space, making sure that business data and apps are protected from an eventual ‘corruption’ of the user space. To this end, it also allows companies to remotely manage, delete, and uninstall the data protected by the Knox container in the event the device is lost, stolen, or otherwise misplaced.”

KNOX has been approved by the Department of Defense for use in the US Government, and more recently, has received government certifications from China and France.

 

Enterprise Device Program

Samsung’s Enterprise Device Program is “A business focused device program to address the needs of enterprise customers including two-year purchase assurance and monthly security updates on select flagship devices”.

Android doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to security, due perhaps in part to do with how the update mechanism is managed. Simon Bryden, senior engineer at FortiGuard Labs, Fortinet explains, “The update mechanism of Android is fundamentally flawed from a security perspective because it's not Google that manages the security updates, it's the telcos and mobile operators. StageFright is a good example; Google issued a patch but now each of the mobile operators has to push that patch to its customers. That slows everything down and gives much bigger windows of opportunity for hackers.”

However, Samsung has begun rolling out new security updates for its Galaxy branded flagship phones. The rollout is part of the South Korean company’s monthly Security Maintenance Release (SMR) process and includes all patches from both Google and Samsung.

 

Marshmallow

The new Samsung S7 and S7 edge will ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which has a bunch of new features for the security-conscious IT department, including app permissions, network security reset, encryption, Smart Lock, and Smart Lock for Passwords.

Marshmallow is further plugging the enterprise angle with Android for Work (AfW), sandboxing for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environments. Not only that, but beginning with the S7 and S7 edge, Samsung will be delivering AfW hardened by Samsung KNOX. According to Samsung, “This allows AfW customers to realize the same core elements of hardware-backed protection that government and other highly regulated industries receive when they use Samsung KNOX.”

Of course, these new security features are part of Marshmallow, which won’t help the 90% of Android devices that are running out-of-date versions of the Android OS. Ash Devata, VP Product Security at Duo Security, told us that their research has revealed that 32% of Android devices in use in enterprises today are running version 4.0 or older, and 1 in 20 of all Android devices used in enterprises are rooted, leaving them vulnerable to numerous attacks. Neither of which are helpful to those nice people in IT trying to keep your data safe.

Dr. Injong Rhee, Executive Vice President and Head of R&D, Software and Services, Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics has said, “We believe that the robustness of Android, along with the award winning security benefits of Samsung KNOX will help bring a new level of productivity for businesses that cannot be matched.”

 

McAfee® VirusScan® Mobile Security

In a press release at the end of February, Intel announced that both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge phones will have McAfee® VirusScan® pre-installed.

John Giamatteo, Corporate Vice President at Intel Security said at the time that with McAfee® VirusScan® Mobile Security Intel Security would be fighting the “growing mobile threats by collaborating with consumer brands like Samsung to help keep customer’s mobile devices more secure so they can experience the connected world with confidence.”

So there does seem to be a strong focus from Samsung on security -- “Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge users can feel more comfortable in navigating the digital world with enhanced protection by the latest anti-malware solution that Samsung offers,” says Henry Lee, vice president of Mobile Security Technologies of Samsung Mobile.

However, a point against the South Korean company is that many of its new security efforts will only apply to the new S7 and S7 edge, meaning those that own older devices will miss out on those features that will ‘harden’ AfW or make the Enterprise Device Program appealing.

Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter much what Samsung do, if the user isn’t sensible. As Tim Williams, Director of Product Marketing at HEAT Software, puts it, “Users tend to be the weakest link in security.”   

 

Further reading:

Samsung S7: Rumours & reality

Samsung S7: Reactions

 

BlackBerry analysis: Android OS for enterprise customers?

Could its new security focus juice up BlackBerry?

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Kate Hoy

Kate Hoy is Editor of IDG Connect

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