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Android: The Swiss Cheese of Mobile?

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It’s been a while since I wrote about Bring Your Own Device – in fact I think it was the subject of the very first blog article I published.

So why is it back on the radar?

In reality, it’s never gone away. More businesses are migrating to the Cloud and managing multiple devices, and that will consume an increasing amount of IT resource (check out this awesome video from Sophos which highlights this issue):

What’s prompted me to write about BYOD again is the combination of recent security concerns about Android, as well as Microsoft’s clear intention to open up even more to devices that don’t run the Windows operating system. All part of their Mobile First, Cloud First strategy.

The alleged demise of the PC has been well reported, with Gartner predicting shipments to fall by around 10% year on year. The tablet market is predicted to grow from 116,113,000 units in 2012 to 467,951,000 units in 2017, and the mobile phone market growing by 22% over the same period.

According to IDC research, Android’s share of the tablet market in 2013 was 62.6% against Apple at 32.5% - a massive turnaround from the previous year when Apple’s share stood at 60.3% against Android at 38%. So a practical reversal of fortunes.

More recent Gartner research reported that Android will likely surpass one billion users across all devices in 2014.

The suggestion is that rather than looking to compete, Microsoft will use their devices to drive innovation in the marketplace on the basis that others will look to follow their lead – for example they’re positioning the Surface 3 as a brand new device category that could replace both your laptop and tablet (see my blog 'A PC under the Surface').

What’s apparently more important to Microsoft (and arguably a clear case of ‘pivoting’) is that people continue to use their services, such as Office 365, on a subscription basis. In their droves – Office 365 is Microsoft’s fastest selling product ever at a $2.5b per year run rate.

What all this means is that we will likely see the number of Android devices accessing business information will increase. And that’s something any IT manager will need to take into account.

Should they be concerned about the Android security scares?

According to the lead engineer for Android security at Google, the majority of Android users don’t need to install antivirus or other security apps on their devices for protection.

However, security experts suggest that there are vulnerabilities and it’s clear that hackers have shifted the focus of their attacks away from the traditional PC to focus on the burgeoning mobile market.

Even if the percentage of those actually affected by malware is small, it’s a small percentage of a massive number, so it’s not something that any IT professional can simply ignore.

Without getting into deep technical detail, the latest scares (which you can read about in more detail in an article from Symantec called ‘Apathy or Denial’. It calls Android a ‘malware magnet’) concern the fact that it seems possible for hackers to bypass the security measures designed to ensure only approved apps find their way into the Google Play store.

It’s worth pointing out that anyone who ‘jailbreaks’ their devices, or downloads ‘unofficial’ apps is undoubtedly exposing themselves to risks that are never acceptable in a business context.

There’s actually an element of truth on both sides of the argument.

The apps on mobile devices are effectively ‘sandboxed’ which means they operate in isolation from everything else. And no information can be transferred from one app to another.

This is very different to the way things work on a PC. It makes mobile devices far more difficult to infiltrate successfully.

However, some hackers can be extremely clever, ingenious and innovative, and who knows what they will come up with next?

The concept of ‘ransomware’ has already migrated to mobile with devices ‘locked’, and only unlocked for when a fee is paid.

The market is huge with the global price tag of consumer cybercrime estimated at $113bn and 1 million victims every day. So there’s plenty incentive for innovation to continue!

And don’t forget that the divide between consumer and business devices is becoming increasingly blurred.

For those who are worried (understandably?), our friends at Sophos have developed a free lightweight anti-virus app that protects Android devices against malware, privacy issues and hardware loss (without reducing performance or battery life) which is available for free download from Google Play.

From a business perspective, it’s yet another reason why mobile device management (MDM) and unified threat management (UTM) are so important.

For more information on creating a mobile device management strategy take a look at this infographic we recently put together.

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