Marshmallow, Anyone?

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TECHNOLOGY

marshmallow-anyone
Security of the mobile devices used in your business
should be a primary concern.

Because mobile devices are able to take on more
and more tasks traditionally performed by desktop
computers, work done in an office environment can
increasingly be done almost anywhere. As a result, the
security features of the mobile device and platform
should be important considerations for your business.

Marshmallow Introduced

In October 2015, Google released Android 6.0 “Marshmallow”,
the latest version of their mobile device
operating system. Google has strengthened security in
a move to attract the business consumer.

Should you consider an Android switch in your
business? Are you already an Android-based business
wondering if your security is up to snuff? Is Marshmallow
secure enough for small business?

Encryption

Marshmallow devices ship with full-disk-device
encryption enabled by default although some exceptions
are permitted for lower-end models that do not
have sufficient computing performance to encrypt
on the fly. Encrypting the entire storage capacity
means all data and apps stored on the device will be
essentially unreadable without the cryptographic key.
Google has also enhanced the Verified Boot function,
which checks to see whether the operating system has
been tampered with.

If you are concerned about encryption on your other
computing devices, full device encryption is available
on Windows and Mac computers and is already on by
default for iOS devices.

Flex Storage

A number of Android devices over the years have
included a Micro SD card slot, which allows you to add
more storage capacity. Most current models no longer
ship with this feature; however, that may change with
Marshmallow. Google’s Flex Storage feature allows the
expandable storage to be formatted, encrypted and
integrated with the main memory. This offers a secure
way to substantially increase the capacity of your device
without having to micro-manage what gets stored
where. The downside, however, is that the memory
becomes more or less permanent: if you remove your
Micro SD card, apps stored on it will stop working;
since it’s encrypted, anything stored on the card will
not be readable on another device. Currently, iOS
devices do not offer expandable storage as a feature.

Apps in Marshmallow request access to
functions the first time they need them.

App Permissions

One of the biggest new security features in Marshmallow
is a substantial change to the way apps may be
granted access to certain functions. Previously, an app
would request access to all functions it supported at the
time of installation from the Google Play store. Apps in
Marshmallow now request access to functions the first
time they need them, such as a camera app requesting
permission to use the camera. If an app requests access
to a function you don’t think it should have, you can
say no and the rest of the app should still work normally.
Permissions can also be reviewed and individually
revoked at any time from the Settings. In iOS, app
permissions already have this level of granularity.

Auto Backup

Another security feature is the automatic backup to
Google Drive. Google will back up your data as long as
there is a WiFi connection. Thus, if your device is lost,
stolen or broken or if all your data is wiped out, you
can restore it onto a new Android device. The iCloud
Backup feature on iOS provides similar backup and
restore capabilities.

Fingerprints

Marshmallow includes support for fingerprint recognition
as part of the operating system. This will allow
other app creators to more easily make use of the
fingerprint reader via an API (application programming
interface). Google’s own services will also support the
fingerprint scanner for authentication, such as authorizing
a purchase in the Google Play store. Apple’s
TouchID feature supports fingerprint authentication
on devices with a fingerprint reader; all current iPhone
models and most iPad models now include TouchID.

Other Features

In addition to security enhancements, Android 6.0
Marshmallow also includes a number of other features,
such as Now on Tap, which integrates Google’s
search nearly everywhere on the device. Hardware
support for the new USB 3.1 standard, with the
Type-C connector (easily insertable on the first try
since there is no correct “up” side), is also included.

Get the Right Features

The mobile platform you choose for your business will
depend on a number of factors. Security is important,
but you will likely also need to consider the app ecosystem,
app availability and potentially cross-platform
interoperability. If you need a specific app that is only
available on one platform, you will need to consider
that too. Likewise, many popular apps are available
on both Android and iOS. You may also want to give
consideration to employee preferences; some employees
will not care, but some will have a strong leaning for
one platform over another.

A word of advice: do not go low end for your business.
A high-end or mid-range device is more likely to
include newer capabilities, which are not always easily
dismissed as “bells and whistles”; good security features
like full disk encryption and fingerprint scanners
require better hardware. You only get what you pay for.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided on this page is intended to provide general information. The information does not take into account your personal situation and is not intended to be used without consultation from accounting and financial professionals. Allan Madan and Madan Chartered Accountant will not be held liable for any problems that arise from the usage of the information provided on this page.

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