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Android’s Security to Improve with Samsung’s KNOX

Anindya is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Samsung wants to become the Android vendor of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) that corporate America can trust. At the Mobile World Congress, a few days ago, Samsung announced it was further bolstering its mobile enterprise credentials by releasing KNOX, a comprehensive package of mobile security services that will be integrated into its SAFE (Samsung for Enterprise) brand.

Samsung’s initiative will not only help Google rebuild customers’ confidence in Android in terms of security, it will also strengthen Android’s position in the corporate sector against rival BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY).

Android Malware Exploding

Google’s Android operating system has undergone a kind of fracture due to so many variations of this OS are being used by different manufacturers. The amount of mobile malware in Android has surged from 30,000 specimens in June to almost 175,000 in September last year, according to a report by Trend Micro.

The Trend Micro report also takes aim at an area of growing concern, Android adware, which may send an excessive, undeclared amount of personal information captured off a device to ad networks. A lot of this adware come through the legitimate Google Play app store.

Android's open API model helps Samsung developing KNOX

Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) locked-down approach in iOS has an edge over Android, especially since Android's more open platform is being targeted by malware writers. But on Android's side, security experts point out that the closed, proprietary iOS architecture has some drawbacks, such as when an iOS device is "jailbroken," its security shield is basically broken.

"You can build more security for Android," notes Tom Kellermann, vice president of cybersecurity at Trend Micro, who points out Android's open API model is conducive for that. But he notes that for now, at least, Google Android is also viewed as more vulnerable. In a study that Trend Micro did of security of the three mobile platforms iOS, Android and BlackBerry, BlackBerry actually came out on top in that, he points out.

Mobile Security: Android vs. iOS

One of the primary differences between Android and iOS is the application distribution and vetting models. iOS has a single application store, iTunes that customers can download applications from. While Apple is not perfect, they have executed better than Google in the application vetting process while attempting to limit malware distribution.

On the other hand, Android applications can be acquired from both the Google Play store as well as a number of third-party stores. This distribution model lends itself well to repackaged applications that contain malware.

Apple's vaunted application-screening process could maintain its current success until the top-notch hackers feel it is profitable to create malware sophisticated enough to hide from their application-screening process.

Mobile Security: Android vs. BlackBerry

BlackBerry’s “Balance” feature, which separates work application data from personal application data, helps it providing top-notch security to corporate customers. BlackBerry’s ability to implement separate VPNs to individual applications rather than relying on one VPN for the entire device is another advantage, so far as security is concerned.

What makes Samsung’s push into the enterprise truly remarkable is that it’s something that neither Apple nor rival Android vendors have ever really tried to accomplish. With KNOX, Samsung is trying to explicitly move into the territory held by BlackBerry and is trying to get companies to see its Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II devices as real business tools.

What KNOX can do?

KNOX is expected to provide the following features:

  • Secure access to business information while preventing the information from being copied into, sent from or used by personal applications like Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo! Mail accounts.
  • Business data or files created by business applications cannot be used by personal applications.
  • If a user attempts an action that is prohibited by IT policy, a notification is displayed on the device.
  • If an employee leaves the organization, an administrator can remotely wipe business information from the device while leaving personal information intact.
  • If a device is lost or stolen, an administrator can wipe all information from the device to help ensure that sensitive business information and the user’s personal information don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Conclusion

The popularity of the Galaxy S III makes Samsung’s job easier since many Galaxy owners are already bringing their devices to work and companies are more than happy to have Samsung coming in with its own security services they can use instead of scrambling around trying to find third-party mobile enterprise apps.


Anindya7 has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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