Google launches Android for Work, its secure play for BYOD

Google has taken the wraps off Android for Work, the BYOD enterprise program it’s been brewing with mobile device management (MDM) partners for months and borrows from Samsung’s container technology KNOX.

Android dominates the consumer smartphone market but Google’s OS is still behind iOS in the enterprise. Google hopes that Android for Work gives businesses an easier way to securely deploy the billion or so Android smartphones carried by consumers.

Android for Work was first touted at Google IO last year as an enterprise companion to Android L (Android 5.0), which built on other security features such as default encryption, enhanced SELinux security enforcement and multi-user support.

Android 5.0 is the primary version that is supported and allows for “work profiles”, a tool that divides a space for personal data and a space for work data that can be managed by admins, not unlike Samsung’s Knox Workspace.

“IT can deploy approved work apps right alongside their users personal apps knowing their sensitive data remains secured. People can use their personal apps knowing their employer only manages work data and won’t erase or view their personal content,” explained Rajen Sheth, Google director of product management of Android and Chrome for Work.

Android for Work was designed with Android 5.0 in mind, but four months after its release, the version makes up less than two percent of all Android devices out there, according to Google’s Android distribution figures for February.

Until that figure rises, devices running anything from Ice Cream Sandwich to Jelly Bean and KitKat — collectively making up 80 percent of all Android devices — will be able to use the “Android for Work app”.

“The app, which delivers secure mail, calendar, contacts, documents, browsing and access to approved work apps, can be completely managed by IT,” said Sheth.

Google for Work also includes Google Play for Work, a store for apps that have been approved by each business.

The final component is a suite of productivity tools, including email, contacts and calendar, which support Exchange and Notes. The suite comes courtesy of Divide, a BYOD startup that Google acquired last May after Google Ventures had invested in it. Google still calls the app Divide, which is available in preview on Google Play.

Google notes in support documents that Android for Work requires Android 5.0 or higher and Google Apps for Work or a Google-approved enterprise mobility management (EMM) provider.

Some of the EMM or MDM partners on board include VMware’s AirWatch, BlackBerry, IBM’s MaaS360, MobileIron, Citrix, SAP and SOTI.

Samsung KNOX also played a key role in developing Android for Work, which Google outlined last year as a set of new Android SDK APIs for EMMs that enable the creation of a managed profile where corporate apps and data reside.

Read more: The week in security: Struggling to get smarter about mobile apps

AirWatch noted today in a http://blogs.air-watch.com/2015/02/airwatch-integrate-android-work/#.VO4vilPF8gk/|company blog post]] that Android for Work standardises management APIs for Android devices from multiple OEMs.

The EMM vendor also explained the provisioning process. AirWatch admins can obtain a token for their domain from a Google Android for Work portal. They then upload and verify the token in AirWatch. Users meanwhile will need to enrol with the AirWatch Agent before they can activate Android for Work.

Once the set up is complete, admins will be able to manage profiles and settings and run commands from the MDM console, including remote device wipe, enterprise wipe, device lock and clear passcode.

The admin can also apply Work Profile restrictions, such as disabling the camera, copy and past functions, and sharing wit the personal area of the device. They’ll also be able to set up URL whitelists or blacklists and disable cookies in Chrome settings.

Read more: Record-pace app sales reinforce urgency of authorities' mobile app privacy push

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.


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