This week AirWatch announced that they have developed their own app reputation scanning service. They already have partnerships with Appthority and Veracode, two companies that provide similar services, so yesterday I caught up with AirWatch senior product engineer Blake Brannon to see what the difference is.
What is app reputation?
App reputation is based on the idea that even if mobile apps aren’t actually outright malware, their ability to easily access and share data can be still be dangerous, and that poorly-designed apps can put data at risk, too. Mobile device management technology doesn’t usually doesn’t give much visibility into these risks; mobile app management technology can keep corporate data separated from risky apps, but this isn’t always an option.
The end result is that often corporate data ends up being exposed to all sorts of user-installed apps, no matter what. App reputation services can be used to see which apps might put that data at risk.
AirWatch’s take on app reputation
AirWatch’s solution is starting out pretty basic. Essentially, it just does static analysis of iOS and Android apps to see what permissions they ask for and what shared resources and APIs they call on (think of things along the lines of contacts, calendars, location data, and other frameworks that mobile OSes use to pass data back and forth). The result is that you can see what types of personal and corporate data they can access, and check on other behaviors, like whether or not they utilize encryption. The service has a separate licensing cost, and is $10 per device, perpetual, or 50 cents per device per month.
The AirWatch management engine can keep tabs on all the apps users install in your environment, (with MDM, you can see an aggregate list of all the different mobile apps on the devices you manage) and you can use the results to build policies around individual apps. AirWatch is also building up a central database of the reputations of apps scanned by their customers.
This is pretty much all it does for right now. On the other hand, Appthority and Veracode have a lot more options for different types of analysis and building policies, and they can both be integrated into the AirWatch management platform, too.
For example, Appthority can do dynamic code analysis and collect all sorts of information about apps (demo video here), and they give apps a reputation score. Their policy engine, released this summer, can be used to build general MDM policies around different types of behavior or reputation score.
It’s pretty clear that for right now if you want anything beyond the basics you’ll have to go with a partner. But naturally, AirWatch has plans to expand their offering to include more dynamic scanning and more platforms, so we’ll keep an eye on this.