Are Android-based mobiles compatible with the world of work?

Are Android-based mobiles compatible with the world of work?

In a few years Android has monopolized nearly 65% of global market share.

On October 9th a report was published by Gartner (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2604616) in which we read of an 8.6%-drop in sales of PCs on the figures for 2012. Sony has even gone so far as to announce its withdrawal from the PC market (http://www.latribune.fr/technos-medias/informatique/20140205trib000813719/sony-sur-le-point-de-se-retirer-du-marche-des-ordinateurs.html). The winners are digital tablets with a +70%-increase predicted by Gartner for 2014 and also smartphones.

For the consultancy agency Forrester by 2017 company purchases will stand for 18% of digital-tablet sales in the world.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device – an increasing trend which consists in using a personal device for professional purposes) is one of the main reasons behind that. But, the emergence of touch-screen tablets for management and sales departments is up there at the top as well.

More and more company directors are attracted professional-based apps for mobiles.

They’re easy to handle and lighter than a portable PC. They are up and running much faster. They’re more fun. They’re trendier. Tablets are more and more attractive to sales people while on appointments.

CRM and Information System interfaced tools.

Geolocalization to locate the whereabouts of clients nearby.

Sharing tools for documents and cache systems: Dropbox, Google Drive.

Company managers are unanimous on the advantages of a digital tablet, since it:

  • Makes the salesforce more effective,
  • Enables access to and the collection of data while on the move,
  • Provides a good image of the company,
  • Improves the productivity of the sales team,
  • Makes for a more-collaborative work ethos,
  • Strengthens the quality of the service for clients / new customers.

But, what about using Android in a company?

According to the editor of Good Technologies, 75% of companies in the Fortune-500 ranking prefer iOS to Android since the Cupertino OS gives them the impression of being easier to integrate and also more secure.

But, DSI steered very clear of Android for a number of years despite it being inescapable today (+65% had this opinion according to a study carried out by Citrix Business Mobility).

But, with the BOYD phenomenon which is getting bigger and bigger, many companies now increasingly have to take Android into the equation. The crisis has a lot to answer for and France is the champion of BOYD in Europe with a 44%-adoption rate while the rest of the world has an average of just 36%.

Apple-pro vs Android-pro?

So what are the benefits of iOS 7 and Android 4.4 for companies? In terms of security, Apple has always been one step ahead of Google and that can be confirmed with applications being secured with Mobile Application Management and a VPN function (Virtual Private Network) for every application.

To stay that step ahead over its competitor Apple has also announced the OSS for companies, which is an interestingly unique identification function when coupled with Touch ID for example. Although this is not on Android 4.4, Google is offering on its side a user-management function enabling the isolation of a personal profile within a professional profile on the OS.

In terms of adaptability in particular, Android comes out on top by offering an open system (with its drawbacks admittedly). Apple is not able to do that. But, the Android system often has several layers over the original version (mostly the operating level and the manufacturing level). To restore the original version the terminal often has to be rooted, which boils down to hacking it. All of that means certain technical skills have to be mastered and the result could be the possible loss of the device’s guarantee.

To stay within the regulations of Android, it could mean that an update might take several months; you’ll have to wait for the manufacturer’s overlay to appear followed by the operator’s overlay, which is not the case with Apple.

What’s more, with a wide range of products, Google has whatever it takes to attract a whole variety of budgets. Its partnership with LG in particular means that it’s possible today to get hold of a smartphone for as little as 150€ ($206)!

Android, malware and distributor stores

On Android there’s no need to have mastered Assembly Language to get an attack up and running. All you need is to read the programmer docs made available by Google.

Just running a search on “malware” and “android” will show you exactly what to do. Attacks on Android were 5 times more common than on Windows for 2012 according to a study carried out by Trend Micro. So, why Android more than iPhone? The main reason is that Apple takes much more care in comparison with Google over the codes that are sent to stores. Google Play isn’t the only store where you can download apps and the great variety of platforms where you can download apps is an open door to downloading any old malware app.

A recent report published in the magazine MISC n°71 runs through the great ease with which attacks can happen with just the sending of SMS messages that are invoiced at a premium rate, restarting the telephone, modifying the “Buy” and “Free” buttons, starting a service, theft of ID and passwords on social networks and the list goes on…

But, there are things that can be done in the way of security that are out there too!

New and lucrative MDM – Mobile Device Management – activities have recently seen the light of day and they encapsulate sensitive applications in ‘containers’. The user has to identify himself twice before getting into the secure application.

Others, mostly in English-speaking countries, manage to geolocalize the user as well as using a login and a password.

Others still have developed systems that encrypt the transmitted data.

But, the biggest and the best form of protection has to come from the Information Systems. Indeed, one excellent means is to interface an intermediary API between the mobile terminal and the core of the company system. This API will only display data that is considered to be of low sensitivity.

So is it Android or iPhone for my company?

Android is attractive for SMEs due to its low cost and accessibility and OS adaptability. Extra costs should not be forgotten, however. A fleet of mobiles working with Android needs a lot more attention than a fleet of Apple mobiles due to the securization of the SI.

The best form of defense is of course to be proactive with employees. They must, for their own benefit and the company’s, download applications that have been deemed bone fide from known stores and not jailbreak their terminals. This last point may well be hard to respect above all with people that belong to Generation Y, but the DSI will need to set up some security rules and profile users with such-and-such security measures for their particular user profile.

Is this set in stone?

 As with my rules and regulations in the mobile market: No! It was no later than this morning that I came across an article from PC World (http://www.pcworld.com/article/2098435/report-finds-ios-apps-riskier-than-android-apps.html) which showed that free applications were less secure than paid applications and that iOS applications were more at risk than Android-based ones. It’s a shame that this article only provides statistics and no real-life examples to go by.

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