In the era of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) workplaces, enterprise security solutions have gained a newfound importance. Samsung was one of the first smartphone manufactures that realized this importance, launching Knox as an all-in-one mobile security solution for their proprietary phones.
At least that was the intention. But Knox has a long history of being replete with security vulnerabilities, as Israeli researchers revealed in research published 3 years ago. Although Samsung has progressively improved Knox over the years with the release of updates, the plain fact is that you can't rely on it for privacy.
Nonetheless, there are a number of things that Knox does well and it helps to see its limitations from the privacy standpoint if you first understand its scope of functions.
Knox and BYOD Security
The increasing trend of BYOD devices can be gauged from the rising dependency that modern companies have developed for the ability of employees to access business apps from the smartphones. According to a Syntonic survey of 206 US companies, as much 87% of the companies depend to some extent on the ability of their employees to access work-related apps from their phones.
That's a very high level of dependency. No question that companies would want some way of enforcing company policies on their employees, even when they are logged into business apps from outside the premises of their office.
This is where Samsung Knox enables enterprises to remotely control a part of the phone's OS that is dedicated for work-related tasks. The range of abilities this system affords to companies includes the ability to install apps remotely, demanding user authorization for installing new apps, and so on. These functionalities work as a safeguard if an employee gets the funny idea to use an app that might leak or copy sensitive business information for unauthorized purposes.
Knox treats the smartphone workspace differently from your personal Android space. This ensures that no party other than the user himself/herself can access the part of your Samsung Phone that contains apps for normal, personal use. At the same, it treats the workspace of the phone in a way that mandates adherence to company usage policy.
These are functions that Knox performs admirably well and a critique of these aspects specifically would be uncalled for. However, all too often, people rely on enterprise solutions entirely, believing them to be a one-stop answer to all privacy and cybersecurity threats lurking around the web.
This is the farthest thing from the truth for the simple reason that privacy threats are complex and manifold and no single piece of software tool can guarantee perfect secrecy for enterprises or the individual.
Privacy Protection Demands a Multi-faceted Approach
There are uncountable ways that hackers and users with malicious intent can breach your privacy at both the individual and enterprise levels.
However, poor privacy practices are the culprit more often than not in cases related to online privacy issues. This requires a multi-pronged approach on the part of enterprises that involves ensuring that the common vulnerabilities and exploits cybercriminals.
One of the simplest yet effective measures for better privacy on smartphones, and thus ultimately for the enterprise, is to use the best VPN apps for Android. The layers of encryption that a VPN adds to your online activities in combination with the IP-masking effect naturally make you much safer on the web than you would be otherwise.
In fact, surfing the web on your Android phone opens you up to a host of threats on the web. The danger is even more pronounced if you're connected to an unprotected public Wi-Fi, for instance, during a break and need to access the internet to take care of some work-related stuff urgently.
Not only would this open you up to a possible privacy breach on an individual level, but you might also be leaving your company vulnerable to a more serious data breach or cybersecurity attack.
Again, a VPN is not the final frontier of privacy. You would still need to keep common sense handy, use strong passwords, avoid clicking shady links, or accessing websites starting with http rather than https. No tool can help preserve your privacy if you hand over sensitive information yourself to any party that has no business accessing your private information.
With these simple measures in mind, it must be remembered that Knox is by no means a failed security system. It certainly has its uses, especially when it comes to partitioning the OS in your Samsung phones into two environments: one dedicated to work and one to your personal space.
Samsung Knox is a decent enterprise security system that is particularly useful in the BYOD context. But threats to online privacy are so pervasive in the modern day that reliance on any single security/privacy tool is unlikely to be adequate. This is why the importance of taking a multi-faceted approach to smartphone security, especially for Android, has assumed a level that is unprecedented.