Samsung planning Knox 2.0 for smartphones, tablets

Samsung's upcoming Knox 2.0 will have more security features and support more devices.

By , IDG News Service |  

After releasing the first version of Knox security software after a long testing period, Samsung is working on version 2.0.

Knox 2.0 will offer more security features and work in more devices, said Jae Shin, vice president of the Knox Business Group in Samsung's mobile communications division. Shin did not provide details of the new features in Knox 2.0, but development of features will depend on user needs.

Knox is built on Android, and taps into the OS and chipset features to secure a device. Samsung has partnered with mobile-device management software companies MobileIron, AirWatch, SAP, Citrix, Centrify and Mocana to take advantage of Knox.

"When we give [Knox] to them, we have a minimum feature guideline," Shin said, adding that the companies adapt the security layer to match their mobile-device management software.

Knox now works with the Qualcomm chipset. Support for more chipsets, including Samsung's, is being built in, Shin said. However, he couldn't say if Knox would come to Windows Phone OS, which is also used by Samsung in some handsets.

The security software is in the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition tablet, which became available last week in the U.S. The security layer is also being offered with some Galaxy S4 smartphones.

Knox represents a big push by Samsung to make its tablets and smartphones relevant in the bring-your-own-device environment. Enterprises also are looking for easier mobile device management tools.

For example, Knox features allow the creation of secure boot so only authorized applications are on the device. Knox can create isolated environments to run specific applications, which will ensure Android isn't compromised. Knox can also be used to establish secure VPN (virtual private network) connections, or to prevent keylogging or hacking. Samsung takes advantage of the TrustZone hardware-based security layer to store security keys and create isolated environments.

"Knox is an attempt by Samsung to do what Google should've done with Android a year ago, which is secure it," said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates.

Users also bring non-Samsung personal devices into business environments and the security features need to be on more devices for a more manageable BYOD environment, Gold said.

One of Samsung's challenges with Knox is to deal with a diversity of handsets running different versions of Android with different OS upgrade timelines, Gold said.

Samsung is pushing Knox to wireless carriers, which will offer the security layer to customers. Canadian wireless carrier Bell last week said it will sell Knox-enabled Samsung mobile devices to its customers in vertical markets.

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