Samsung is set to put the ever-more-tarnished security reputation of Google’s Android operating system to the test by submitting three of its flagship products for testing against the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD)’s Australasian Information Security Evaluation Program (AISEP).
The company has contracted BAE Systems Detica to test the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, and Galaxy Note 10.1, running Android 4.1.1, for evaluation to the EAL2 Common Criteria standard. EAL2 certification, which will take months before being potentially awarded, would allow the Samsung devices to be used in government applications to transmit UNCLASSIFIED information – the lowest security level under the government classification scheme.
The EAL2 certification was chosen over higher-level certifications, Samsung Australia director for Enterprise and SMB Andre Obradovic told CSO Australia, “to meet our government customers’ requests in a timely manner”; testing of the popular Galaxy S4 was similarly deferred because it runs on a different version of Android.
“Late last year we were approached by enterprise and government customers who were asking about DSD certification of our devices because they wanted more choice in a platform,” he continued, “and the feedback we received was that they wanted a richer user experience.”
“As our current evaluation progresses, we may consider reviewing the requirements for other certifications to meet important customer demands.”
Lodgement of Samsung’s first DSD accreditation is a significant move for the maker of Android-based devices which, despite their runaway popularity with consumers, have struggled for adoption in enterprise applications because of the general feeling that they’re still extremely vulnerable to malware. For this reason, many early BYOD adopters have explicitly banned Android-based devices from their rollouts.
Just in the last week, the platform was recently fingered by Kaspersky Lab as the prime vector for mobile malware; compared to Windows in terms of its malware exposure; and named in a class-action lawsuit alleging Google is enabling Android vendors to illegally collect private user data.
Last December, researchers found a way to get root access on Samsung devices using a purpose-built Android exploit that affected the company’s S2 and S3 phones as well as its Galaxy Note, Note II, Note Plus and Note 10.1 devices.
Samsung – which quickly responded to fix that vulnerability – has made a strong play into the enterprise security market this year, with its Samsung Mobile Security delivering mobile device management (MDM) capabilities with what Obradovic said was 338 IT policies, 725 security APIs, 256-bit AES encryption, and support for VPNs and Exchange Active Sync.
The company also recently sought to further strengthen its credentials by launching its Knox security platform and partnered with identity and access management (IAM) vendor Centrify to bundle its IAM capabilities on KNOX-enabled devices. Earlier this month, Knox was approved for use by the US Department of Defense.
If its push for EAL2 certification is successful, the products will join the DSD’s Evaluated Products List, a register that maintains the security accreditation status of products that have successfully undergone the rigorous evaluation process.
Other mobile products already on the list include Apple’s iOS operating system, the Blackberry PlayBook, BlackBerry OS 7.0, and Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5. The BlackBerry 10 operating system is currently under evaluation and is estimated to have completed the process by the third quarter.