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Samsung's security twist: Protect yourself from IT

Galen Gruman | March 12, 2015
Walling off corporate data with from personal data via My Knox protects IT from you -- and vice versa.

If you're worried about your personal information being accessible to your company's IT staff, you may have an unlikely defense in the form of mobile workspaces, aka containers, which separate work and personal data (and apps) on your smartphone or tablet. IT organizations like the idea because it lets them wall off their stuff from yours.

Although most containers are imposed on you by IT to secure work data, Samsung has an interesting twist on the concept: user-installed containers to protect your personal information from IT's reach.

I'm not a fan of mobile containers -- most are awkward to use. They typically make users jump between two contexts, access unfamiliar apps for basic functions like email and document editing, and separate activities that should be integrated, like your day's calendar or what new messages have been received.

Sure, you can point to good aspects in, say, BlackBerry Balance, Android for Work(the former Divide product), or any of the mobile device management (MDM) vendors' secured workspace apps. But on balance, they're a pain to use.

The ins and outs of using My Knox
Samsung's My Knox container app is not as painful as some others, thanks to its option to present the safeguarded apps within a folder (if you prefer) or in the more traditional separate environment, where you switch between your personal home screens to your work ones as needed. (You're still required to enter your password to use business apps, though.)

Most interesting, you can download My Knoxfrom the Google Play app store and separate your personal and business workspaces yourself, relegating IT-managed content like your work email to a business workspace. If you set My Knox to switch between fully separate workspaces, rather than use the Folders layout, you navigate to the My Knox workspace by opening the My Knox app; when in the My Knox workspace, you get back to your personal workspace by tapping the Personal Home app.

You can also tell My Knox to share contacts and/or calendar information between the two workspaces. My Knox lets you set up sharing in either or both directions. For example, you could choose to share personal contacts with your business workspace, for use by, say, the Email app there. But you could choose not to share contacts in your business workspace with your personal workspace, so you couldn't look up, for instance, a business contact's email address from the Email in your personal workspace.

If you're concerned about snooping by IT staffers or other corporate folks on your devices, using a container like My Knox effectively locks them out of your personal data. That's not necessarily the case if you have an Android device you've connected to your company's Exchange server or non-container-oriented MDM tool. (iOS has a very different application security model, oriented to managing apps directly rather than in separate workspaces, and its app sandboxes block everything but that app from seeing an app's content.)

 

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