Symantec today announced that its mobile device management software now supports Apple iOS and Google Android, via Microsoft's Enterprise ActiveSync protocol, which both platforms support. The release is part of an expanded push by the security vendor to eventually deal with the wide range of mobility threats.
Symantec is developing for future release an agent for iOS and Android. The agent will give enterprise IT groups greater and more detailed control over how employees can use these handsets. It already has similar agents for Windows Mobile and RIM BlackBerry OS.
Also in development are products aimed at mobile carriers. These new applications, scheduled for announcement in a few weeks, will give carriers more visibility into mobile traffic and more control over the threats to their cellular subscribers, according to Jon Kuhn, director of product management for Symantec's Enterprise Security Group.
The mobile OS support added to Symantec Mobile Management Version 7.0 (released late in 2009) creates a security management application that can work across several of the most popular mobile platforms. A growing number of companies no longer standardize on just one mobile OS, though the degree to which they support different OSs varies with the platform, requirements, applications and available third-party tools.
The Symantec application offers central point of management, role-based access policies, details on individual devices or groups of them, and the ability to execute a range of administrative actions, such as automatically wiping corporate data from a device used by a departing employee.
But the initial "agent-less" implementation does have limits because, like most other third-party security management tools, the Symantec software relies on how the OS vendor has implemented Microsoft Enterprise ActiveSync. EAS is a protocol that synchronizes a handset with Microsoft Exchange – e-mail, calendar, contacts – and can support a range of Exchange-based security and management policies.
"What we can do with iOS and Android devices hinges on what Apple and Google have done in their OS and [in their] ActiveSync implementations," Kuhn says. "We've been working very closely with both vendors to add features tailored to the enterprise."
Windows Mobile, for example, can support sophisticated anti-virus applications running in the background. That's not possible yet on iOS.
Via ActiveSync, device management features include remote data wipe, password policy enforcement and device inventory. The console for Symantec Mobile Management 7.0 creates a common administrative GUI that can work with the different EAS implementations.
The new iOS and Android support is available now. Symantec Mobile Management 7.0 has a starting price of $62 per managed device, but enterprise pricing programs, based on term and commitment, will lower that figure.
Symantec's other mobile offerings include:Symantec Endpoint Protection Mobile Edition, Symantec Network Access Control Mobile Edition, for mobile security; PGP Mobile, PGP Support Package for BlackBerry, for endpoint encryption; and VeriSign Identity Protection (VIP) Access for Mobile, VeriSign Device Certificate Services, for authentication.
Symantec also offers consumer smartphone applications under the Norton label, including Norton Smartphone Security, a native application for iOS and Android for controlling spam, and for blocking malware applications from launching. It's available for download from Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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