Android’s coming of age for rugged device security

For every business relying on Windows Embedded operating systems to run their mobile computing devices, the clock is ticking. Microsoft is phasing out support for these systems. This means businesses face a choice. Migrate to a new operating system as soon as possible. Or stick with the old one for a bit longer.


Most businesses know they need to migrate, but it may not seem like a priority. Their devices are working at the moment. It’s a big task, with significant cost implications. And that means many may hesitate and turn their attention to other projects instead.


What are the risks of delaying?

When support ends, there will no longer be helping with technical problems or bug fixes. But more crucially, there are no more security fixes for vulnerabilities that are discovered. If you want to know how serious that can be, think back to the WannaCry attack on the NHS. The attack exploited a weakness in a Windows file-sharing system on machines running Windows XP, and on unpatched Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 machines1. The ransomware was able to spread across vulnerable systems with no user interaction. The cost and disruption of an attack like this surely make an OS migration look positively inviting by comparison.


Ticking clock or time’s already up?

Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 will be the end of life in January 2020. July 2019 spells the end for Embedded 8.1 Handheld. And support ended for Windows Embedded CE 6.0 in April this year2. This means thousands of businesses are already using devices that aren’t properly protected. With the stakes so high, migrating to a new OS must be a priority. The General Data Protection Regulation came into effect on 25 May 2018 this year. If companies are found to have failed to protect personal data, they could pay a hefty fine.


Android’s the safe choice, but is it enterprise-ready?

Most of us know Android. It’s in our phones, Chromebooks, cars and TVs. As Google says, it’s ‘the world’s most popular mobile OS’. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Android move strongly into more use cases in the enterprise arena. Its familiar user experience and trusted performance make it a popular choice. But it still poses a few challenges for an enterprise, especially across e-commerce fulfilment, warehousing, transport and logistics. The key issue springs from Android roots as an OS for consumer devices and the frequency with which it updates its OS. New versions are released almost every 12 months. And typically, the support lifecycle for a version of Android is about 3 years. After which, security support stops. For consumers, who are used to upgrading to a new phone or device regularly, this is ok. But businesses generally expect at least a five-year service life from technology investment. So Businesses are back to the dilemma of using devices that don’t have security support and leaving themselves exposed to risks. Or swallowing the extra cost and inconvenience of migrating to a new OS more frequently. Neither of which is satisfactory.


Zebra LifeGuard for Android steps into the breach

Zebra understands this dilemma and has developed a software security solution that extends the lifespan of Android devices and closes the security gap – LifeGuard for Android. In fact, LifeGuard for Android adds years of OS security support after consumer support stops. This aligns to the enterprise hardware lifecycle, helping the business significantly lower total cost of ownership. With LifeGuard, businesses get regular security updates and legacy OS security support when transitioning to a newer OS. Businesses welcome this prolonged service life and flexibility. It means workers can continue to use apps built for older versions of Android, reducing the cost and inconvenience of frequent app rebuilds. All of which helps to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO).


Better all-around security

However, security risks come from many different sources. Insider threats are one example, where an employee turns rogue and steals data or carries out other malicious actions. Pools of shared devices might be seen as a soft target for this, but  Lifeguard for Android also has features that enable a manager to identify the individual using the device, even among shared devices. So, if suspicious behaviour is identified, it can be traced to the culprit. On a less sinister note, another worry about Android is its tempting multitude of apps. At best, workers might waste time playing Candy Crush. Or at worst, download a malware-laden app by mistake. Again, LifeGuard for Android prevents this by only allowing access to certain apps or by blocking access to Google Play Store.


Championing Android for the future of rugged devices

It’s no surprise that Zebra is leading the way with LifeGuard for Android. The company has had a close working relationship with Google for many years. In fact, five years ago, Zebra was the first manufacturer to ship a rugged mobile device based on Android. They followed this by becoming the first to ship a million rugged devices based on Android. LifeGuard for Android is part of Zebra’s end-to-end mobility solution – Mobility DNA. This is a comprehensive suite of enterprise applications, administration utilities and development tools, trusted by businesses across the world. So, it might be curtains for Windows Embedded OS, but Zebra’s ready to help businesses migrate to Android, and offers a range of professional-grade Android devices built from the ground up specifically for the enterprise.


For more information please contact our DC POS team on 0371 973 3699 or email