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What is app wrapping? One way to more secure mobile apps

Lucas Mearian | July 24, 2017
As part of a mobile application management strategy, app wrapping allows developers and administrators to apply security enforcement policies to a mobile app without changing its look or functionality.

A year after launching, the AppConfig Community membership has grown from 60 to 90 independent software vendors, from four to 19 EMM providers, from 160 to more than 1,400 individual developers and from one to two operating systems (iOS at  launch and Android since May  2016). The groups plans to expand to Windows, as well.

"[The] AppConfig Community is focused on the developer, so as more and more developers start building modern apps on Windows 10 and beyond, we will develop and promote best practices for the platform," Razavian said. "The same holds for future OS platforms.

"With all that being said, the AppConfig Community does not completely replace EMM-specific SDKs and wrappers. Native frameworks are very powerful, but SDKs can fill the gap between the security use cases of the enterprise and the current capabilities of those native OS frameworks," he said. "This is always a moving target."

A complicating factor is the current trend toward native control of apps through mobile OSes, such as Apple's iOS and Android. Recent versions of iOS, for example, allow app-level controls such as data loss prevention and secure access without requiring app wrapping code or software development kits. Management policies for iOS or Android, however, are still configured via an EMM platform, according to Phil Hochmuth, program director for IDC's Enterprise Mobility team.

"EMM platforms will still be the connector or trigger point for creating and managing the policies around the apps, but the execution will be done via the operating system as opposed [to] special code injected into the app," Hochmuth said.

For example, the ability to wipe an app from a mobile device or turn off copy and paste will still be controlled through an EMM console -- not through the application itself.

One of the most widely used mobile application platforms, Microsoft's Office 365, also presents its own unique set of problems with regard to management. In the past, Office 365 didn't allow application management via third-party EMM consoles; that functionality was available only through its InTune cloud-based management service.

"They had a lockout position on that," Hochmuth said. "That was a major drawback."

Earlier this year, however, Microsoft issued APIs to allow some third-party EMM software to handle policy enforcement on Office 365 apps, but it still requires a purchased license for InTune as the bridge, Hochmuth said.

"Microsoft customers were asking for it, and I still think customers will be pushing toward that over time," he said.

"I think where the market is going longer term is more toward native controls for apps and operating systems," Hochmuth continued. "A lot of that has to do with the AppConfig Community. Many app developers, like SAP, Oracle and Box, are moving toward the initiative to make mobile app controls and security more native based -- so [that would mean] using the native functions in iOS and Android to apply security controls."


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