Samsung Galaxy Tab too insecure for business use, analysis finds

Apple's iPad and RIM PlayBook score higher

Samsung's much-vaunted Galaxy Tab has serious security failings that make it completely unsuitable for use by businesses, a technical analysis by consultancy Context Information Security has found.

In A Hard Pill to Swallow?, Context's engineers compared the security features of Samsung's popular Android 3.2-based Tab 7.0 tablet to the iPad 2 and RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook.

None of the three passed without caveats, but the Tab's failings put it a far-distant third place in the security stakes.

The Tab's problems ranged from the inconvenient - it lacked a depth of management tools beyond Exchange ActiveSync for instance - to its lax implementation of encryption.

The researchers found that this wasn't turned on by default, and even when turned on could only secure a small data partition using 128-bit AES. The SD card had to be encrypted separately.

Although the default could be over-ridden by ActiveSync, that wouldn't apply to the SD Card which also did not encrypt filenames. The actual encryption design also lacked rigour and could be open to attack in some circumstances.

The iPad and PlayBook did far better in terms of data security, although the team also found that the iPad's security depended heavily on the length and complexity of the chosen key. Pick one with 8 alphanumeric characters and a dictionary attack would take as long as 9,661 years; reduce that same key to only four letters (a common habit among many iPad users it was suggested) and the time plummeted to 18 minutes.

Another vulnerability of the Tab was its unlocked recovery and native bootloaders, which could allow an attacker to gain access to the ActiveSync credentials. Not all of this is Samsung's fault of course - Android's app signing design can allow rogue apps to install themselves more easily than would be the case on a BlackBerry and iPad, which limit this privilege to themselves.

In common with some other Samsung devices, the remote wipe feature was also found to be open to hijacking by any app, allowing such invaders to "wipe the device at will," although after reporting the issue Samsung reportedly fixed this flaw.

"There was a significant difference in security levels between the Galaxy tablet and the iPad and PlayBook, which were much more closely matched for enterprise levels of security," concluded Context.

"The Galaxy Tab was shown to suffer from some serious security failings that make it difficult to recommend as a tool for enterprise use," the company said.

Thanks to RIM's experience in the business market, the easiest to manage as a BYOD device turned out to be the PlayBook which is ironic because it's probably the one of the three least likely to be bought by the very BYOD-business users it was supposed to be aimed at.

The iPad is easily the best compromise despite betraying its consumer heritage at times.

The Samsung, meanwhile, needs a lot of work to make it as a serious business device although in fairness Samsung might point oiut that it was not created to serve such a purpose. The question raised by BYOD is whether a simple separation of consumer (=low security) and business (=hight security) is any longer meaningful.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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