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A Simple Guide to Android MDM for Your Company

Smart devices have brought the world unprecedented accessibility in sharing and using data. Coupled with advancements in broadband networks, especially 4G and new 5G technology, we're now able to access information and share resources at lightning speed — regardless of our location. Big corporations and small businesses have learned to leverage these technologies to boost operational efficiency and optimize production. 

Making up for roughly 70% share of the smartphone market, Android devices are a favorite among most companies. However, Android’s vast popularity also highlights the brand’s vulnerability. According to research by Cambridge University, 87% of Android devices are exposed to at least one major vulnerability. To mitigate risk, enforce policy compliance, and protect company data on employee devices remotely, firms leverage Android Device Management (MDM) solutions. 

You may be wondering, What is Android MDM? How does it protect company data in both new and used devices? Our simple guide will answer these questions and more. 

What is Android Mobile Device Management (MDM)?

Android Mobile Device Management (MDM) is an administrative management tool that allows your business to be in charge of data security when integrating the use of staff Android devices into your corporate or small business network. Once set up, your company's IT department can conveniently manage the Android MDM software.

MDM is different from Enterprise Device Management (EMM), which goes beyond managing data and app features to running the whole device. Both often comprise the more extensive Unified Enterprise Software (UEM) that includes management for Android, Microsoft Windows devices, iOS, and other Apple devices. Android MDM is designed to minimize the threat of things like malware and data breaches for Android devices. 

How could Android MDM benefit your organization?

Allowing personal devices, including smartphones and laptops, into your company's network is a great way to invest in the productivity of your business, but it also exposes your company to potential threats. Let’s review some of the core reasons your organization needs MDM to promote efficiency while minimizing digital risk.

Competitive advantage with the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) option 

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is one of the many ways companies have tapped into smartphone accessibility for employees. A BYOD policy allows staff to use personal devices, such as smartphones and laptops, for work purposes. With MDM, you can manage, secure, and easily configure each personal device to work within the security confines of your corporate or small business network.

Employees have flexibility when they can access company data and their work profile from anywhere at any time. Such flexibility and convenience can help keep employees happy, reducing turnover and increasing output. In addition, your company can save the money that would have been used to buy additional hardware.

Increased remote working opportunities 

As an aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the remote and hybrid work model has seemingly become favored by many and accepted by most corporate executives. 

Remote work removes location dependence and allows companies to source employees within a broader pool of options. The result is that firms can access highly talented, motivated, and skilled workers outside of their typical operating region. In addition, flexible arrangements typically boost employee satisfaction

An MDM becomes twice as important when you don't have much physical interaction with your employees. It can help you manage all of your various devices used in remote workspaces worldwide, protecting your company from data leaks and preventing malicious parties from attacking your business network from a remote worker's device. Keep track of your security in real-time.

Large-scale deployment of devices 

Beyond personal devices, an Android MDM can facilitate the large-scale deployment of new company devices.

Buying a new batch of secured smart devices is hard enough; however, configuring devices to the company's network and updating individual software and security protocols is next-level tricky. When you’re investing in brand new devices that you want to last, ensuring that deployment is done correctly will be a crucial step in the process. An Android MDM can help set you up for success. 

However, it's important you don't buy used devices without  PhoneCheck Certified Device History Reports. It's a quick and easy way to save you from costly hidden problems that may arise after-purchase. That said, MDM automates and eases the deployment of smart devices for your company. It saves you time by speeding up the device enrollment process.

What are major Android security threats?

The one advantage that makes the Android enterprise successful also exposes its vulnerability: the open nature of its operating system. The open OS allows malicious parties to infiltrate through harmful apps and other methods to steal data from users. 

Any company that hopes to integrate Android smart devices into its corporate network must be aware of the following significant threats and understand that an Android MDM can help mitigate these.

Malware 

Malware is a harmful or malicious application. It steals data like browsing history or credit card information. It will likely spam you with ads, making it a nightmare to get anything done on your Android device.

Ransomware is malware that locks up your documents and files (or the entire phone), making them inaccessible for use. It essentially holds users ransom.

Malware is often disguised as a harmless or beneficial application, like an ad blocker. After tricking users into installing it, malware becomes difficult to remove and wreaks havoc. While most malware comes from dubious sites through the web, some can find their way to secured app stores like the Google Play Store.

Mobile device management software ensures that the latest anti-malware updates are available on all managed devices. MDM is also equipped with security suites like Samsung Knox, which blocks blacklisted sites and domains to protect company files.

Data leaks 

Business data on personal and constantly moving mobile devices has the potential to be compromised in many different ways. Employees can inadvertently share sensitive company information (for instance, if the device is stolen or lost). Such devices are a target for cyberattacks that intend to steal from or damage your company.

An Android MDM can prevent data from being exposed on multiple levels. It compartmentalizes company data and files, keeping them separate from personal data and preventing the accidental transfer of corporate data.

This technology can also establish and impose a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that encrypts all data exchanged within the company, regardless of individual device location. It ensures that all company information transfers happen within a secure layer, thereby protecting against data breaches through vulnerable Wi-Fi networks.

Excessive app permissions 

Android's built-in security protocols isolate every application from the other and the system. Each app has to request to use key features on the device. The more permission an app has access to, the higher the damage it can impose. This is not limited to malware applications.

An Android MDM can go through the manifest of each pre-installed app on the devices within the company's network and disable high-risk permissions. With this, your MDM can limit functionality in questionable apps without its outright removal.

How does the MDM typically work?

Android MDM technology utilizes an architecture that ties into your UEM infrastructure with two endpoints. The company's IT unit manages the client-side of the infrastructure. In this case, the server that houses the MDM software suite is hosted on-premise.

MDM solutions can also be cloud-based. Here, the hosting, maintenance, and perhaps the software management are taken care of by a third party. This approach is usually less expensive, saving the company the cost of getting new servers or additional IT personnel. A cloud-based MDM solution operated as a SAAS is especially suited to mid-sized companies.

The company's IT admin can manage and remote control each connected device through an interface console in both cases. With this, the company can take control of the endpoint management of corporate data and resources on all managed devices.

However, you have to configure a device before imposing your authority or managing it. The enrollment process involves IT personnel installing the end-user part of the MDM software on employee devices. Enrollment can be as simple as having each device scan a QR code.

The company can then update security protocols, change passwords, wipe sensitive data, manage app permissions, and more over-the-air (OTA) with APIs.

How to set up Mobile Device Management on Android devices in 4 steps

You can have more control over Android devices within your corporate network by setting up your Android device management solution using the following steps.

Step 1. Turn on advanced mobile management 

After enrolling a mobile device into your MDM architecture, you can follow these steps to turn on MDM:

Step 2. Set up password and approval requirements 

First, inform your employees that you'll be remotely managing their devices. Keep them updated on the policies guiding application management and password requirements. Then set up a password. 

You can request specific passcode criteria to ensure endpoint users use secure passwords. You can also require admin permission before your employees can access work files and data on their mobile phones.

Step 3. Set up company-owned mobile devices 

Document all mobile devices if your company is providing them. Next, you can deploy your Android devices using zero-touch enrollment and install prepared MDM protocols across your devices. 

Suppose you're buying a used device from a secondary market. In that case, you can avoid costly hidden problems by purchasing a history report on PhoneCheck.

Step 4. Protect your organization's data 

Leverage the various advanced management features to secure your company's data and boost employee productivity. 

Try these recommended advanced settings:

How to turn off Mobile Device Management on Android devices

Sometimes you need to replace old devices, or employees decide to leave. In that case, you need to turn off MDM from the device. We've provided a general guideline on how to do it yourself. Contact your MDM provider for more specific deactivation instructions.

Buying used phones? Ensure MDM software is turned off with Phonecheck

Android device MDM offers your business significant benefits regarding security and operational flexibility. However, you need to ensure the MDM is turned off when buying a used company phone from a secondary market or selling old company devices. This guards against leaking your security architecture to a third party and prevents pre-existing MDM (in the newly acquired phone) from interfering with your device deployment.

That's where Phonecheck comes in. Our industry-standard device certification software will execute enterprise-level diagnostics and data wipes for your devices. Alternatively, if you have purchased a device that is not certified, consider running your own  PhoneCheck Certified History Report — it costs about the same as a cup of coffee.

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