Cyber Security

Android Device Management – What Is It & Why It Is Important

Mobile device usage has grown rapidly in recent years, especially with the transition to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Statista, Android is the leading mobile operating system, controlling nearly 73% of global market share.

The dominance of Android in the market means that many organizations will have employees working from them under bring your own device (BYOD) policies.  Additionally, many companies have elected to purchase Android devices to distribute to employees.

Android devices make up a growing share of companies’ digital attack surface, and cybercriminals are taking notice. Mobile malware grew by 15% in 2020, and 46% of companies were impacted by a malicious mobile application in 2020.  To defend themselves against mobile threats, protect their sensitive data, and maintain regulatory compliance, companies must adopt solutions that enable them to manage and secure their growing mobile device fleet.

What Is Android Device Management?

Mobile device management (MDM) solutions provide companies with the tools they need to effectively monitor and manage their mobile devices.  Android device management (ADM) focuses specifically on securing and managing devices running the Android mobile operating system.

MDM and ADM can be difficult for an organization because mobile devices differ significantly from traditional IT infrastructure.  Mobile devices commonly leave the enterprise network and may be personal devices owned by employees and used under BYOD policies.  An MDM solution can’t assume that a device will always be connected to the enterprise network and protected by its perimeter-based defenses.

An ADM solution should allow an organization to perform certain key functions for their mobile IT infrastructure, including:

Manage: 

As the name implies, Android device management allows administrators to oversee a mass number of devices with ease.  They can keep track of devices’ activity and even check for status.  This is essential for organizations that are facing rapid growth in mobile device usage due to BYOD and remote work policies.

Organize: 

Not all devices in an organization’s mobile IT ecosystem are created equal.  Some devices may have greater access than others and require varying levels of monitoring and security.  An ADM solution should allow an organization to group and label devices based on departments, functions, and other categories.

Protect: 

Mobile devices present unique threats to an organization.  They are much more likely to be lost and stolen than traditional IT devices.  An MDM solution should provide protection against these threats, such as the ability to remotely lock or remotely wipe devices. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) should also be supported on all devices.

Efficiency: 

As mobile device deployments grow, individually configuring, monitoring, updating, and managing each device rapidly becomes unscalable and unsustainable.  An ADM solution should allow an organization to perform actions on multiple devices at once and with ease.

Why You Need Android Device Management

As mobile device usage grows more common, so have attacks from cybercriminals. Mobile devices can be targeted in a variety of different ways, including:

Mobile Malware: 

Cybercriminals are increasingly developing mobile malware to exploit mobile devices.  The malicious apps are often trojans that pretend to be legitimate mobile apps and are distributed via the app store or malicious SMS messages.

Social Engineering: 

Phishing content can be distributed over various different media, including email, SMS, corporate communications platforms, and social media.  Mobile phones’ support for all of these platforms makes them more exposed to phishing attacks.  Phishing with malicious links is also more effective on social media due to the common use of link shortening services and the inability to hover over a link to check its destination before clicking.

Excessive Permissions: 

Mobile device users commonly grant excessive permissions to mobile apps, enabling them to access the camera, location, and other unnecessary information.  Additionally, mobile device owners may jailbreak or root their devices, providing apps with access to even more advanced permissions.  Malicious apps with elevated permissions pose a significant risk to both device users and the business.

Patching Gaps: 

Mobile device manufacturers are notoriously bad at providing on-time updates and often terminate update support for their devices.  Additionally, mobile device users may wait to apply available updates.  This leaves their devices potentially vulnerable to exploitation by attackers that target devices vulnerable to recently-published vulnerabilities.

Advertising Modules: 

Malicious advertising offers cybercriminals the ability to install malware, steal sensitive information, and earn money by charging companies for views of their ads.  Mobile malware may be designed to serve unwanted ads to a user or to simulate fake views and clicks in the background to make money for the attackers.

Data Leakage via Malicious Apps: 

Malicious applications installed on a device may have access to a wide range of sensitive data, especially if they are granted certain permissions.  These apps can gather and exfiltrate this information with less risk of detection due to the decreased visibility that users and the enterprise have into mobile devices.

Unsecured Public WiFi: 

Mobile devices are much more likely to be connected to public WiFi networks than other devices.  Connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi or malicious networks masquerading as legitimate ones exposes mobile devices to man-in-the-middle (MitM) and other attacks.

Encryption Gaps: 

Unlike browsing the web on a laptop, mobile applications are not transparent about how they communicate with cloud-based infrastructure.  Often, mobile apps do not use encryption for data in transit.  This leaves their communications vulnerable to eavesdropping and potential modification by an attacker.

IoT Devices: 

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are commonly designed to be monitored and managed from mobile devices.  However, these IoT devices are also notorious for their poor security.  Insecure IoT devices may be used to attack mobile devices and vice versa.

Lost or Stolen Mobile Devices: 

Mobile devices are designed to be taken outside of the home or office, making them more prone to being lost or stolen.  With physical access to a device, an attacker may be able to gain access to the device or read the device’s memory.  This could allow an attacker to steal sensitive corporate data or gain access to corporate systems via remote access solutions installed on the device.

MDM solutions provide organizations with the ability to manage their devices’ exposure to these various threats.  For example, a mobile device administrator can push updates out to corporate devices or leverage remote wipe and device tracking to mitigate the risk of a lost or stolen device.

Key Takeaways

Android device management solutions enable an organization to more efficiently and effectively take control of their growing mobile infrastructure.  An ADM solution provides critical capabilities for device monitoring, management, and security.

Prey provides organizations with the ability to effectively manage its Android mobile devices at scale.  Prey solutions offer robust data security solutions including full device wipes, remote factory reset, and full drive encryption for mobile devices.  An organization using Prey can also track and remotely lock its devices in the event that devices are lost or stolen.

For more information, consider reading these security resources:

About the author

Norman Gutiérrez

Norman Gutiérrez is our Security Researcher at Prey, one of the leading companies in the security and mobility industry, with more than 8 million users worldwide. In addition to this, Norm is Prey's Content and Communication Specialist, and our Infosec ambassador. Norm has worked for several tech media outlets such as FayerWayer and Publimetro, among others. In his free time, Norman enjoys videogames, cool gadgets, music, and fun board games.