Windows Phone 7 security: Assessing WP7 security features

Windows Phone 7 security features are proving to be a mixed bag. Sam Cattle assesses the enterprise security pros and cons of the latest Windows mobile platform.

As some enterprise and SMB employees begin using Windows Phone 7 (WP7) smartphones, WP7 security features are proving to be a mixed bag. The platform has some security features in place, but other security concerns haven’t been addressed; that’s what we’ll cover in this tip.

Like most phones, WP7 supports the use of a PIN to lock the phone’s screen; that’s a vital security feature of any smartphone.   

Microsoft has done some work to isolate data storage and execution for applications, potentially protecting against malware.  However, the jury is still out on their effectiveness. 

WP7 supports AES encryption and some hashing methods for applications.  Expect to see independent applications released this year that use these capabilities to address privacy and Windows Phone 7 security concerns. The WP7 file system is not encrypted, meaning it doesn’t natively support compliance for the encryption of privacy data on portable devices and removable media. 

The DirectAccess feature, available in integrations of Windows Phone 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, can make file sharing and intranet sites available to mobile users without the use of a VPN.  Currently, there is not enough evidence to indicate how secure this feature really is.  But this has the potential to be a real security issue by opening up the corporate network to outside users, inherently bypassing standard security infrastructure, like firewalls and VPNs.

The “kill switch” security features that have garnered some attention are the remote ring, locate, remote lock and remote wipe services that are available to WP7 users through Windows Phone Live.  These services are accessed over the Web and can help you find your phone or prevent others from using it.  The same capabilities are available to Windows Mobile 6.x users through Microsoft MyPhone or from third parties like Lookout Mobile Security.  They are leveraging the capabilities of your cellular operator’s network and not the operating system, so they’re not guaranteed to work on all phones and are best-effort services.

About the author:
Sam Cattle is a principal consultant at GlassHouse Technologie.

This was first published in July 2011

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