How Intel Plans To Secure Android Devices

Securing Android devices isn't quite as fiddly as trying to manage iOS, but still lacks options compared to the well-established principles for desktop PCs and laptops. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Intel outlined plans to make Android devices more manageable, but just how soon will we see those plans in action?

The notion of Android as a viable Windows alternative for tablets and PCs, either standalone or on dual-boot devices, was a key part of Intel's CES presentations earlier this month. As CEO Brian Krzanich explained:

There are issues with security and enterprise compliance with Android, though. I want to announce that Intel is going to deliver the Intel Device Protection technology. You can now use Android in detachables and tablets anywhere you are, and it will be available this year. It meets most security requirements for use at home and at work. It's full 64-bit and allows you to move seamlessly in-and-out of the office.  
As corporate "bring-your-own-device" programs have grown in popularity, many firms have prohibited Android-based devices that weren't compatible with their companies' security requirements. Intel Security this year will offer Intel Device Protection technology, which will help Intel-based Android mobile devices meet most security standards for use at home and work.

Intel hasn't disclosed a timetable for when in 2014 we'll see device protection enabled for Android. However, Intel Asia Pacific director Narendra Bhandari told Lifehacker that there was no need to rush the development.

"Enterprises aren't going to start buying in January or early February," he said. "They're going to want time for planning. This is a long-lead heads up. Security needs a roadmap. Customer implementations will take time." Given the relatively open nature of the Android platform and the need to ensure the technology works with a wide range of apps, the process might take a while.

One potential advantage of chip-level support is that it should be simpler to implement policies on devices which often won't go near an IT department. "As these devices get more popular in enterprises, the CIOs would like to manage these devices remotely as much as possible," Bhandari said. "The mobile device management APIs things which many CIOS are used to in the Windows space are harder with cross-device management."

The approach will use the same manageability extensions model that is already used with Windows PCs. "You can containerise it and you can partition it with a BYOD model for work content and personal content," Bhandari said.

Another aim for the platform is to reduce the incidence of malware on Android devices. "There are issues around the Android security framework," Bhandari said.

There's one big caveat here: those options will only work on Android devices that are using Intel processors. That will certainly include dual-boot Windows/Android PCs, but doesn't include most smartphones. Samsung's dominant Galaxy S4, for instance, uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon.


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