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Despite new security in Galaxy S4, BlackBerry remains king

While Samsung has significantly improved security with its Knox technology in the Galaxy S4, when it comes to locking down corporate data, BlackBerry holds on to the crown with the Z10, experts say.

Samsung introduced the smartphone this week in a flashy event in New York. While barely mentioning the Android operating system powering the device, Samsung touted the security features that it hopes will open the door into the enterprise.

For corporations that have made mobile security a top priority, The S4 is sure to go up against the Z10, which goes on sale in the U.S. next Friday through AT&T. The S4 will be available through all the major U.S. carriers in the second quarter.

Both devices have new technology that sets up separate areas for corporate and personal apps, while also keeping data apart. BlackBerry calls its technology Balance; Samsung has named its product Knox.

While both features do the same thing, BlackBerry adds another layer of security, by requiring corporate customers to use Enterprise Service 10 software on a server behind the firewall.

BlackBerry also provides a cross-platform management tool to stretch corporate policies managing the use of corporate data and apps across Apple iOS and Android devices. The same can be done with S4, but third-party software would have to do the heavy lifting.

"I don't think the S4, from a security perspective, comes anywhere near what the Z10 does," said Jack Gold, analyst for J. Gold Associates. "BlackBerry has been known forever for being a very secure platform, and they continue that with the Z10."

IDC analyst Stephen Drake, said he believes Samsung had come a lot closer to BlackBerry on security, but acknowledged the latter was still king. "It's hard to judge if one is [more secure] than the other," he said. "BlackBerry is certainly known as the gold standard in security. I don't think there's any question with BlackBerry's level of security."

Samsung's big achievement is in taking security on Android to a new level at a time when the operating system is increasingly under attack by hackers. The number of Android malware is growing substantially faster than any other Web-delivered malicious app, Cisco said in its 2013 Annual Security Report. In addition, cybercriminals are building better tools for attacking the OS.

[Also see: FTC moves against mobile device makers over security]

Recognizing the trend, Samsung knows it has to get serious about security, if it hopes to convince companies to allow employees to use their Galaxy S4 or Galaxy tablets on corporate networks. Being able to use one device for work and play is important for many customers.

"What Samsung has done is begin to provide a new level of security for Android that hasn't been seen," Drake said.

More than 70% of smartphones sold today are running Android, with Samsung selling about half of those devices. BlackBerry has a miniscule 1.1% of the overall smartphone market, but roughly a quarter of the U.S. enterprise market.

Most Samsung users are consumers, so the corporate market has lots of potential. In 2012, less than 24% of corporations used Android devices, according to IDC.

Knox is based on a new version of Samsung's SAFE management and security system for Android smartphones and tablets. SAFE stands for "Samsung For Enterprise."

Read more about wireless/mobile security in CSOonline's Wireless/Mobile Security section.


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