• United States



Mobile Device Management companies get more app control on iOS 7

Sep 18, 20134 mins
AppleIdentity Management SolutionsMobile Device Management

Apple is providing MDM APIs that better allow vendors to 'take advantage of the operating system hooks to provide application-level security'

Companies that depend on Mobile Device Management (MDM) software to secure Apple iPhones and iPads will find they have far more app control with those devices running the new iOS 7, companies say.

MDM technology is what many corporations depend on for mobile security, and providers say users of their products will find that the latest version of iOS, available Wednesday, shows Apple making a strong push toward app-centric security.

This is a significant change from previous versions of the mobile operating system, which focused more on controlling hardware-centric components, such as the camera, the Bluetooth wireless system and the GPS, said Chandra Sekar, director of product marketing for Citrix. Apple has recognized that enterprises today want more control over the applications running on the device.

“What Apple is doing is recognizing that need from an enterprise standpoint and providing MDM APIs that better allow vendors to take advantage of the operating system hooks to provide application-level security,” Sekar said. 

MDM customers will have the most control over apps that their IT departments install on the device and shuffle over to a separate business account, which Apple allows to run separately from the device user’s personal account. 

Through the MDM system, companies will be able to prevent data from moving between accounts. In addition, apps installed by IT staff can be configured to only share data with specific apps.

For companies that allow employees to use their own devices, conflicts may arise if the worker is already using an app that the company wants to install. In order for the company to have data control, the employee will have to agree to uninstall the app first, John Herrema, senior vice president of product management for Good Technology, said.

Once the company takes control, restrictions on data movement may prevent employees from using the app in the same way they did before, Herrema said. This could become even more problematic if the employee paid for the app.

[Also see: Apple’s iOS 7 gives security pros a lot to likeApple’s iPhone 5S presents more questions than answers for businesses]

In these scenarios, there will have to be compromises. “Somebody is going to have to give something up,” Herrema said.

In some cases, Apple’s technology will need some help in providing app security, Herrema said. MDM products that wrap apps with code that prevents data from leaving will still be necessary when companies want to share business apps with a partner, a franchisee or independent agent.

Other Apple-provided features that can be configured through an MDM system include setting up a per-app virtual private network, as opposed to attaching the VPN to everything on the smartphone or tablet. In addition, corporate-provisioned apps can be set up for single sign-on. 

From an MDM perspective, one of the most significant changes in iOS 7 is in the ability for companies to provision apps in bulk under a commercial license.

Before, software obtained through Apple’s App Store were linked to the Apple account of the iPhone or iPad user. As a result, companies could not simply use their MDM consoles to remove an app from people’s devices when they leave the company and redeploy it on another device.

With iOS 7, companies can buy app licenses in bulk and move the apps around as they please without having “a lot of overhead administration,” Adam Stein, senior director of product marketing for SAP, said.

From an enterprise security standpoint, Apple is now seen on par with Android devices running Samsung’s Knox technology, which provides similar protection from the hardware through the application layer. 

However, because Knox has only been available since March on a few Samsung devices, Apple’s new security features will be more readily available.

“In the enterprise today, because Samsung is still in ramp up mode, I’d say probably you will have more iOS 7 devices once the operating system is released than Samsung Knox and SAFE devices in the short term,” Stein said.

Knox is part of Samsung’s SAFE management and security system for Android devices. SAFE stands for “Samsung For Enterprise.”