Symantec Corp. announced updates to its Mobile Management Suite that attempt to strike a balance between a preferred user experience and better security controls, at its Symantec Vision conference in Las Vegas today.
Since unifying its acquisitions in the mobile space earlier this year, Symantec has been positioning its new product as the go-to option for businesses struggling with bring your own device (BYOD) woes. The argument goes something like this: a sales employee buys an iPhone and brings it to work, wanting to use the slick e-mail client to send and receive messages. But the IT administrator can’t apply the same controls to the device as the company’s Exchange server. The dispute seems only resolvable by either having the user sacrifice their productive user interface, or having IT lower the bar for security.
“Being able to evolve and use those full capabilities is a big challenge without putting the information on that mobile device at risk,” says Fran Rosche, senior vice-president of mobility for Symantec, delivering a keynote to about 2,500 conference attendees, mostly customers. “It would really be a mistake, we’d be doing our employees a disservice, if we brought in security and user protection services that ruined that great user experience.”
The unified product approach is one early step in Symantec’s reorganization under new CEO Steve Bennett, says Chris O’Connor, senior consulting analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. Dubbed “Symantec 4.0″ the main thrust of the program will be rolled out across the organization July 1. The overall aim to converge products under one engineering team and away from its siloed approach.
In doing so with its mobile security suite, Symantec has found a way to open up cloud access for end-users, an appealing productivity prospect for many. “When you think about the personal cloud, the draw from the end user perspective is that you have control over your own activity,” O’Connor says. “The problem from the IT perspective is that you’re rogue or shadow to the environment.”
Symantec acquired mobile applications management firm Nukona in March 2012 and Odyssey Software for the mobile device management portion earlier that same month.
Here’s the three new features that Symantec is introducing to its mobile suite, also outlined by Rosche in his blog post:
Secure e-mail client
Symantec has mimicked the e-mail client found on iOS and Android platforms and released their own with better security controls. Users will find the interface intuitive and familiar while IT administrators will be able to put in place policies such as password requirements, copy and paste restrictions and attachment file size limits.
Single sign-on for Symantec trusted apps
Symantec offers a program for app makers that allow them to “wrap their app” in a module developed by Symantec. The capability is also available for in-house developed apps.
“After an app is written, we wrap that app and expose certain hooks so enterprise administrators can grab it and apply certain policies,” Rosche explains.
Now users will be able to use those approved apps after signing in just once. Administrators have the option of designating how long that sign-on lasts for before a password must be entered again.
More control for third-party apps
Symantec is adding new features to its application-level policies that include SSL policing and URL whitelisting. This ensures that once data is on a users’s mobile phone, it can only go to approved sources in the eyes of the business, even if a third-party app is being used to read or edit that data. Better yet, that data will be encrypted when its on the move.