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Samsung bolsters BYOD management with a Fort Knox approach

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 25, 2013
KNOX augments Samsung's SAFE mobile device management and security system

BARCELONA -- Samsung Monday announced an improved version of its SAFE management and security system for popular Samsung-branded Android smartphones and tablets.

Samsung dubbed the updated tool set KNOX, after the famous Fort Knox in Kentucky, where much of the U.S. gold reserves are stored.

The KNOX technology, to be demonstrated at Mobile World Congress here this week, means that Samsung smartphone and tablet users will soon be able to take advantage of a dual persona or containerization approach, where corporate and personal data are kept in separate spaces on the Android OS.

Samsung said its new software is not a hypervisor, but runs in the BIOS (basic input output system) firmware of the Android OS with file system encryption, to protect against data leaks, viruses and malware.

The dozen security enhancements to the Samsung SAFE program (an abbreviation for Samsung For Enterprise) which include enterprise Single Sign-On, mean that users get "security enhanced Android" to "address all major [Android] security gaps," said Timothy Wagner, general manager of enterprise sales for Samsung in a briefing with reporters.

For instance, Samsung has written more than 700 APIs (application programming interfaces) that can be used to help IT shops customize Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security policies in partnership with existing Mobile Device Management (MDM) vendors such as Mobile Iron, Juniper, AirWatch and Sybase.

The current version of SAFE supports fewer than half the APIs supported by KNOX.

The new APIs can be used in many ways. For example, an MDM system can be set to prevent a doctor from accessing sensitive patient data from a Samsung device once the GPS shows that he or she has left the grounds of a hospital.

"SAFE with KNOX is a comprehensive mobile security solution ... that will further harden Android," Wagner said. "We have systematically de-fragmented Android."

He conceded that Android has a reputation for lacking security, and is fragmented across different vendors, different devices and different carriers.

The KNOX container approach means that if a hacker were to exploit a Samsung device while in the personal mode, the phone could not be be shut down or rendered useless, Wagner said. The KNOX software monitors the entire phone, both the personal and work containers, he said.

KNOX will appear as an icon on the home page of Samsung smartphones coming in the second quarter.

It will require that users log-in to access work applications, email and other corporate functions. IT managers could customize KNOX to require additional log-ins after a set amount of time has expired.

BlackBerry recently announced Balance, which created dual personas in the BlackBerry 10 OS used in the new Z10 smartphone. But BlackBerry adds another layer of security by requiring that IT shops set up BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 software on a server behind the corporate firewall.


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