Android gets remote security admin via Google Apps

Enterprises using Google Apps are now able to apply remote wiping, locking and new password policies to employees' Android phones, as they can with other platforms such as iOS, BlackBerry and Nokia Series 60

Google has introduced new administration functions for Android handsets to Google Apps, extending the range of smartphone platforms that can have their security policies enforced from the hosted system.

The new functionality, rolled out on Thursday, means companies with Google Apps can now centralise some secure management and synchronisation functionality for Android 2.2 handsets, in addition to previously announced capabilities for phones running on the iOS, BlackBerry, Nokia Series 60 and Windows Mobile platforms.

Administrators will be able to enforce data security policies including remote wiping and the locking of idle devices, along with several password policies such as those for minimum lengths and combinations of letters and numbers. It will also be possible to withdraw access to corporate information on those handsets brought into enterprises by employees.

In a blog post on Thursday, Google Enterprise international sales chief Amit Singh noted that Android handsets would have to have a special Google Apps Device Policy application installed in order for these policies to be enforced. The functionality "will be available free to all Google Apps Premier and Education Edition customers in the next few days, and can be accessed from the 'Mobile' tab under 'Service Settings' in the Google Apps control panel", he added.

In the comment thread for the post, Mayur Kamat, Google Apps product manager, also noted that Android does not support the remote wiping of the phone's SD card, only the handset's local storage.

Tony Cripps, an Ovum analyst, told ZDNet UK on Friday that there were a lot of specialised device management products already on the market from companies such as Mformation and from operators themselves, and some enterprises might not yet see Google as a credible, mature supplier of such services.

"This appears to be another one of these instances where Google seems to be looking at the whole device ecosystem and, bit by bit, filling in the gaps as to who might want to use devices for whatever purpose," Cripps said. "It potentially puts a solution together that looks rather more like RIM's [Research In Motion] — a lot of RIM's credentials in the enterprise space are based on the fact that it is able to provide all the management tools that are needed.

"As is so often the way with things Google brings to market, it potentially undermines the efforts a lot of people have been making in a particular applications space over time," he added.

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